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Dairy Facts 2016

EPA May Exempt Milk from Oil Spill Prevention Program

Dec 15, 2008

After more than six years of confusion over its ambiguous definition of oil, the Environmental Protection Agency recently decided to consider exempting milk from its oil spill prevention and control program. In final program amendments published in the Federal Register on December 5, EPA announced plans to issue a proposed rule on alternative regulatory approaches for milk.

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 last December, 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 would be applied to dairy processing operations that do not have oil on their premises. We now need to make sure that EPA properly crafts the alternative approaches and the exemption."

Many dairy companies could be affected by this program, since the EPA's definition of "oil" includes fats, oils and greases from animal sources and mixtures containing oil. Although EPA had orally stated on several occasions that the rule did not apply to fluid milk, agency representatives have been inconsistent about applying it and about defining "oil mixtures," a category that could potentially include cream, cheese and other dairy products with an undefined fat content. Earlier this year, one EPA official declared that "any amount" of oil in a mixture would trigger the rule.

According to the recent amendments, the agency received several comments that suggested exempting milk storage containers and agreed that "milk containers merit further consideration with respect to SPCC rule applicability." Other organizations that filed comments 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.

EPA intends to publish a proposed rule on alternative regulatory approaches for milk "in the near future."

For more information, contact Detlefsen at or 202-220-3554.

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