Farm families across our country will see relief from EPA-mandated regulations this week because of action in the House of Representatives.
For farmers in Arkansas and across the country the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated an Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program. The program commonly referred to as SPCC requires oil storage facilities with a capacity of over 1,320 gallons to make costly infrastructure improvements to reduce the possibility of oil spills. The regulations require farmers to construct a containment facility, like a dike or a basin. These mandated infrastructure improvements -- along with required inspection and certification by a specially licensed Professional Engineer will cost many farmers tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes compliance costs reach higher than $60,000 for some farmers in my district.
To combat this intrusive and unrealistic regulation, I introduced the Farmers Undertake Land Stewardship Act (FUELS Act). The FUELS Act is simple. It revises the SPCC regulations to be reflective of a producer's spill risk and financial resources. The exemption level would be adjusted upward from an unworkable 1,320 gallons of oil storage to an amount that would protect small farms: 10,000 gallons. The proposal would also place a greater degree of responsibility on farmers and ranchers to self-certify compliance if their oil storage facilities exceed the exemption level. To add another layer of protection, the producer must be able to demonstrate that he or she has no history of oil spills, or must fully comply with the SPCC regulations.
The SPCC program dates back to 1973, shortly after the Clean Water Act was signed into law. In the last decade, it has strictly come down on agriculture, and has been amended, delayed, and extended dozens of times. The Obama Administration updated the rule in 2009 to make the SPCC program more burdensome than ever before -- applying to nearly all farms, and lifting a 2006 rule that suspended compliance requirements for small farms with oil storage of 10,000 gallons or less. It applied to crop oil, vegetable oil, animal fat, and even milk.
The FUELS Act will provide much needed regulatory relief and save farm families thousands of dollars. The University of Arkansas conducted a study that concluded the FUELS Act would save up to $240 million in Arkansas alone. For the entire country, it would save farmers and ranchers up to $3.36 billion.
By nature of occupation, family farmers are already careful stewards of the land and water. No one has more at stake to protect the environment than those who derive their livelihood from working the land. Common-sense proposals like the FUELS Act will provide family farmers protection from EPA mandates.