After more than six years of agency review and comment from the dairy industry, the Environmental Protection Agency last week issued a proposed rule that would exempt milk from its oil spill prevention and control program. EPA estimates this exemption will save the dairy industry $155 million each year by eliminating the need for secondary containment and the costs associated with preparing and maintaining a spill-prevention plan. IDFA Vice President Clay Detlefsen estimates that processors will save approximately $20 million of this amount in compliance costs annually.
IDFA and other dairy industry organizations played a key role in keeping the agency focused on the need to clarify that the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program doesn't apply to dairy products. In addition to filing comments to the proposed rule amending the program in December 2007, IDFA has raised the issue at numerous meetings over the years and most recently in a coalition letter to the agency.
"This is clearly a victory that both processors and producers will benefit from," said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. "For years, IDFA has been concerned that the SPCC rule could be applied to dairy processing operations under the guise that milk is oil under the rule."
Additionally, Detlefsen has been concerned about the potential for non-compliance costs, such as fines, because few people clearly understand what is considered "oil" under the rule. IDFA has opined for years that dairy products are not oil and that the EPA prevention program has failed by not providing clear information about the scope of the rule.
According to the proposed rule, producers and processors would be exempt provided their milk containers and other equipment meet current 3-A Sanitary Standards and comply with the Grade "A" Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) or equivalent state regulations. The 3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that maintains standards and practices for the sanitary design, fabrication, installation and operation of equipment and machinery used in food production. The PMO establishes criteria for permits, inspection and enforcement of milk-handling equipment and operations that govern all processes for milk intended for human consumption.
"We now need to make sure that EPA properly crafts the alternative approaches and the exemption," Detlefsen said. "It is very important for the final exemption to include not only milk but milk products, such as, but not limited to, cream."
IDFA plans to submit written comments in support of the proposed rule before the published February 17 deadline. The Obama administration last Tuesday issued a stay on all unfinished regulatory actions, but IDFA believes the proposed rule, once reviewed by administration officials, will be allowed to proceed.
Members with questions may contact Detlefsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3554.
Other organizations that have voiced support for the exemption are the Food Industry Environmental Council, the Michigan Milk Producers Association and the National Milk Producers Federation in conjunction with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.