Gibbs: Eliminate EPA’s Designation of Milk as an Oil

February 11, 2011
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman Bob Gibbs(R-Lakeville) cosponsored legislation introduced today directing the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to change their designation of milk as an environmental hazard.  Under the EPA’s current rule, milk is considered the same as oil, and if dairy producers do not comply with the EPA’s rule then they will be subject to punitive damages. 

Last year, the EPA announced a one-year extension specifically to address requirement for milk and milk product containers within EPA’s Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, which directs producers to have an oil spill prevention plan by November 10, 2011.  However, a finalized rule exempting milk has not been made.  This legislation Congressman Gibbs cosponsored will prohibit enforcement of the EPA’s regulations on dairy and dairy product producers, processors, handlers and distributers, and it would require the EPA to implement this exemption within 30 days of the legislation’s enactment.

“It is time for the EPA to stop crying over spilled milk,” Gibbs said.  “Because of the EPA’s inaction, this pending and unnecessary regulation continues to loom over the heads of Ohio dairy producers who are already under economic duress.  The EPA must move immediately to permanently exempt dairy product producers, processors, handlers and distributers from this over-burdensome regulation that is stifling the dairy industry’s ability to create jobs.”

Gibbs joined 16 of his colleagues in a letter urging the Administrator of the EPA to finalize the rule exempting dairy producers immediately.

Below is the text of the letter to the EPA:

February 11, 2011

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20460


RE:  EPA-HQ-OPA-2008-0821


Dear Administrator Jackson:

We write to you today to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize a rule exempting milk storage facilities from Spill, Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations.

As you know, EPA is granted authority to administer the SPCC program in efforts to prevent oil discharges into U.S. waterways.  SPCC regulations require facilities that store or use significant quantities of oil or fuel develop a prevention plan in order to prevent and contain any potential spills on site.  While the lessons of the Gulf oil spill and other incidents have proven that more preventative action is needed, unfortunately, under the definition set forth by the SPCC program, milk is classified in the same category as petroleum due to its animal fat content.  While this issue has been brought up before, it has failed to come to a close, and continues to loom over the heads of dairy producers who are already under economic duress.

Enacted in 1995, the Edible Oil Regulatory Reform Act was intended to correct this misclassification.  This legislation mandated that all federal agencies differentiate between oils, animal fats, and grease in its regulations. However, 15 years later, the issue that this law was intended to rectify still exists, exemplified by the classification of milk in the same category as oil.   

On January 15, 2009, EPA announced its proposed rulemaking for exempting milk containers from SPCC requirements.  While the EPA has extended the compliance deadline specifically to address SPCC requirement for milk and milk product containers, the agency has failed to finalize the suggested exemption over the last two years.  This lack of clarity has created great concern and uncertainty within the dairy industry, whom all the while have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

It is evident that extending SPCC regulations to the dairy industry is excessive, overreaching, and unnecessary.  We ask that EPA move immediately to finalize the proposed rule that would permanently exempt certain milk containers and associated piping and appurtenance from the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure program.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request, and we look forward to your response.

Congresswoman Candice Miller (MI-10)

Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-3)

Congressman Bob Latta (OH-5)

Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-19

Congressman Sam Graves (MO-6)

Congressman Mike Simpson (ID-2)

Congressman Bill Owens (NY-23)

Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-18)

Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2)

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS-2)

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6)

Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-21)

Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-2)

Congressman Tim Holden (PA-17)

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-9)

Congressman Tom Petri (WI-6)

Congressman John Carter (TX-31)