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Spilled Milk, A Threat?

Is milk as dangerous as oil? Many would tell you not to cry over spilled milk, but if you are a dairy farmer you may have reason to shed a few tears. Dairy farmers may become subject to a 2002 update to the landmark 1970s Clean Water Act that requires them to possess the same spill prevention abilities as oil companies like BP and Exxon. These regulations are set to go into effect in November of this year.


So, how can milk qualify as oil? Milk contains animal fat which the Environmental Protection Agency classifies as non-petroleum oil. Consequently, milk producers are subject to regulations requiring them to purchase expensive spill-response plans. The rule will go into effect if milk producers are not given an exemption from the EPA.


A number of senators and congressmen have spoken out in support of granting milk producers exemption status, including Rep. William L. Owens (D, NY), Rep. Scott Murphy (D, NY), Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY), and Sen. Mike Johanns (R, NB).


“Everyone knows that when Congress enacted these laws it was targeting massive oil spills and toxic substances, not an accident involving milk at one of our state’s small dairy farms,” remarked Senator Schumer to a national wire service. “Mothers tell their children not to cry over spilled milk–farmers certainly shouldn’t have to either,” he said.


Johanns and Schumer recently introduced legislation in the Senate to grant dairy farmers exempt status. “The idea of EPA treating spilled milk similarly to oil spills is ludicrous. My common sense legislation will require EPA to exempt milk containers from oil spill regulations within 30 days,” said Johanns. “Considering the exemption was proposed in January of last year and the compliance date for these regulations is rapidly approaching, EPA should stop dragging its feet. These regulations would be laughable if not for the costly burdens they will place on our dairy farmers if not stopped.”


Though many are in support of giving milk producers an exemption, there is still some opposition. Gayle Miller, legislative director of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter, told The American Spectator that agricultural pollution probably is the nation’s most severe chronic problem when it comes to water pollution.


“Milk is wholesome in a child’s body. It is devastating in a waterway,” Miller said. “The fact that it’s biodegradable is irrelevant if people die as a result of cryptosporidium, beaches close for E. coli, and fish are killed.”


The EPA has publicly asserted that it intends to give milk producers an exemption from the rules, however the agency has yet to do so.

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