U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has endorsed legislation that would provide relief to small farms from Environmental Protection Agency fuel storage requirements that are set to take effect in May.
Cochran is an original cosponsor to the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act (S.496) that would amend the EPA Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule to ease regulatory compliance requirements for farms. The rule, which goes into effect May 10, would require farms with above-ground oil and gas storage tanks to hire a certified professional engineer to design a SPCC plan for their operation.
"The EPA rule is onerous and poses a significant financial burden for farmers. We are offering a reasonable solution that addresses spill risks without threatening the viability of small farming operations," said Cochran, ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"The EPA's proposed fuel storage rules would force thousands of farmers to pay for costly infrastructure projects--along with an extensive inspection and certification process--that they simply don't need," said Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who introduced the measure on Thursday. "Our bipartisan, common-sense bill would exempt small farms from this regulatory overreach to save them millions in unneeded costs."
The legislation would adjust the aggregate storage capacity standards in the new SPCC rule--set at 1,320 gallons or more of above-ground storage capacity--to save farmers from having to purchase new capital equipment to comply with the regulations, including new ground storage units and dual containment tanks on farm vehicles, that will unnecessarily raise the cost of farming and result in higher prices for consumers.
Exemptions from the rule would apply to farms with above-ground oil storage tanks that have an aggregate storage capacity of less than 10,000 gallons. In addition, the measure would allow farmers to self-certify their own plans if they have less than 42,000 gallons of above-ground storage capacity.
In addition to Cochran, original cosponsors include Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Cochran was among the 33 Senators who in June 2011 asked then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to extend the implementation timeline for the amended SPCC rule for farmers, and to work to ensure that the rule is not overly burdensome or confusing. In November 2011, the EPA quietly announced on its website that it would be extending the SPCC compliance date to May 10, 2013.