It appears that the Environmental Protection Agency, in a story too weird to be fiction, has decided to regulate milk in the same way it does oil. In effect, milk spills will be considered just as hazardous as oil spills.
According to the Wall Street Journal, via Fuel Fix:
"Two weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule that subjects dairy producers to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, which was created in 1970 to prevent oil discharges in navigable waters or near shorelines. Naturally, it usually applies to oil and natural gas outfits. But the EPA has discovered that milk contains 'a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil,' as the agency put it in the Federal Register.
"In other words, the EPA thinks the next blowout may happen in rural Vermont or Wisconsin. Other dangerous pollution risks that somehow haven't made it onto the EPA docket include leaks from maple sugar taps and the vapors at Badger State breweries.
"The EPA rule requires farms — as well as places that make cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream and the like — to prepare and implement an emergency management plan in the event of a milk catastrophe. Among dozens of requirements, farmers must train first responders in cleanup protocol and build 'containment facilities' such as dikes or berms to mitigate offshore dairy slicks.
"These plans must be in place by November, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is even running a $3 million program 'to help farmers and ranchers comply with on-farm oil spill regulations.' You cannot make this stuff up."
This is clearly another in what Sarah Palin so artfully suggested is a "WTF Moment" coming from the Obama administration. Clearly the EPA has gone completely out of control and needs a little adult supervision, as well as a healthy decrease in its budget.
The economic ramifications are rather obvious, if this regulation is allowed to stand. The prices of milk, butter, cheese, ice cream and yogurt will sky rocket. This will not only be a drag on the farm economy but also on people who have to shop for food every week for their families.
The political fallout is also pretty clear. Dairy producing states like Vermont and Wisconsin are generally considered to be blue states, which vote reliably Democratic for most elections. Wisconsin may be changing since it gave Russ Feingold the Royal Order of the Boot from the United States Senate.
In any event, dairy farmers are not going to be pleased to find that the EPA considers them as much of a threat to the environment as Exxon and BP and has mandated that they spend a lot of money to build "containment facilities" to ensure that spilled milk does not get into the environment.
One wonders what Ben and Jerry, purveyors of Hippy ice cream, are going to think about this. Perhaps, as warm supporters of the administration, they can apply for waivers from the new regulation, much as unions are getting out from under the strictures of health care reform. Tough luck for Blue Bell, though, as it is located in Texas.
This runs counter to President Obama's promise in the State of the Union to hunt down regulations that impede business and get rid of them. To be credible, the Obama administration needs to take care that while they are doing this, no new regulations of that nature are imposed.