EPA really was treating milk in the same category as oil

Published Jan. 26, 2012

The statement

Says he eliminated an EPA rule that treated spilled milk like it was oil.

President Barack Obama, Tuesday in the State of the Union address

The ruling

In making the case for sensible federal regulations, President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address pointed to a rule that he eliminated because it was about as antiquated as a milkmaid.

"We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill — because milk was somehow classified as an oil," Obama said.

Absurd as it may sound, the Environmental Protection Agency has long regulated milk the same way it does petroleum because of milk's butter fat content. Vegetable oils fall in the same category.

According to the EPA's website, milk has been regulated under the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure program since 1973, when the Clean Water Act took effect. The law was passed by Congress the preceding year over the veto of President Richard Nixon.

The EPA site says "since the SPCC rule became law in 1973, all kinds of oils including petroleum and edible oils (such as animal fats and vegetable oils) have been considered oils. This is because the SPCC rule gets its definition of 'oil' from the Clean Water Act."

In February 2009, the EPA announced that it intended to exclude milk and dairy farms from the spill rules governing oil products. Here's what the announcement said:

"EPA proposes to exempt milk containers and associated piping and appurtenances from the SPCC requirements provided they are constructed according to the current applicable 3-A Sanitary Standards, and are subject to the current applicable Grade 'A' Pasteurized Milk Ordinance," or similar state laws.

In simple English, that means large milk storage containers will no longer have to meet the EPA's oil spill rules, provided storage tanks meet pasteurization laws.

The change took effect in April 2011.

"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," the agency said in a press release.

So the original regulation had been in effect since 1973, and the EPA under Obama moooooooved it out in April 2011. We rate the claim True.

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