As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to make regulations more effective and eliminate unnecessary burdens, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today exempted milk and milk product containers from the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, potentially saving the milk and dairy industries more than $140 million per year.

This regulation has been in place since the 1970s, and with this action, EPA for the first time will ensure that all milk and milk products will be formally exempted. 

In response to feedback from the agriculture community, EPA determined that this unintended result of the current regulations – which were designed to prevent oil spill damage to inland waters and shorelines – placed unjustifiable burdens on dairy farmers.

To ensure that this outdated rule didn’t harm the agriculture community while the mandatory regulatory process proceeded, EPA had delayed SPCC compliance requirements for milk and milk product containers several times since the SPCC rule went into effect. Today’s formal rule change reflects EPA’s commitment to common-sense, responsive, and transparent rulemaking. It’s also consistent with the president’s executive order on improving regulations.

“After working closely with dairy farmers and other members of the agricultural community, we’re taking commonsense steps to exempt them from a provision in this rule that simply shouldn’t apply to them. Despite the myths that have arisen about EPA’s intentions, our efforts have been solely focused on exempting milk and milk productsfrom this regulation -- and that exemption is now permanent,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

“This step will relieve a potential burden from our nation’s dairy farms, potentially saving them money, and ensuring that EPA can focus on the pressing business of environmental and health protection.” 

Based on input from the milk industry, EPA previously delayed SPCC compliance requirements for milk and milk product containers until the mandated regulatory process could be completed. In January 2009, EPA proposed the rule to exempt milk containers from the SPCC rule.

Milk production is already subject to certain construction and sanitary standards and requirements that help prevent spills. 

The final exemption applies to milk, milk product containers, and milk production equipment.  In addition, because some of these facilities may still have oil storage subject to the spill prevention regulations, EPA is also amending the rule to exclude milk storage capacity from a facility’s total oil storage capacity calculation.