Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crying Over Unspilled Milk

Land Of Milk and Regulation
Preventing the next dairy farm oil slick

President Obamasays he wants to purge regulations that are "just plain dumb," likehis humorous State of the Union bit about salmon. So perhaps he should review anew rule that is supposed to prevent oil spills akin to the Gulf Coastdisaster—at the nation's dairy farms.

Two weeks ago,the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that subjects dairyproducers to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, whichwas created in 1970 to prevent oil discharges in navigable waters or nearshorelines. Naturally, it usually applies to oil and natural gas outfits. Butthe EPA has discovered that milk contains "a percentage of animal fat,which is a non-petroleum oil," as the agency put it in the FederalRegister.

In other words,the EPA thinks the next blowout may happen in rural Vermont or Wisconsin. Otherdangerous pollution risks that somehow haven't made it onto the EPA docketinclude leaks from maple sugar taps and the vapors at Badger State breweries.

The EPA rulerequires farms—as well as places that make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice creamand the like—to prepare and implement an emergency management plan in the eventof a milk catastrophe. Among dozens of requirements, farmers must train firstresponders in cleanup protocol and build "containment facilities"such as dikes or berms to mitigate offshore dairy slicks.

These plans mustbe in place by November, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is even runninga $3 million program "to help farmers and ranchers comply with on-farm oilspill regulations." You cannot make this stuff up.

The final ruleis actually more lenient than the one the EPA originally proposed. The agencytried to claim jurisdiction over the design specifications of "milkcontainers and associated piping and appurtenances," until the industrypointed out that such equipment was already overseen by the Food and DrugAdministration, the USDA and state inspectors. The EPA conceded, "Whilethese measures are not specifically intended for oil spill prevention, webelieve they may prevent discharges of oil in quantities that areharmful."

We appreciateMr. Obama's call for more regulatory reason, but it would be more credible ifone of his key agencies wasn't literally crying over unspilled milk.

For the article online: