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Weekly Column: FUELS Act Will Provide Relief From EPA Regs


Location: Washington, DC

When I talk to small farmers and ranchers in Arkansas they consistently tell me how regulations from Washington hurt their bottom line. When I ask them which agency seems to impose the most regulations, I always get the same answer, the EPA. This week I re-introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency and offer some regulatory relief for farm families.

The Environmental Protection Agency has mandated an Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program that is set to go into effect in May. 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, this week I re-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. Although the House of Representatives passed the FUELS Act in 2012 without a single dissenting vote, the bill stalled in the Senate. I look forward to renewing efforts to pass this bipartisan bill before the EPA imposes the SPCC rules in May.

The SPCC program dates back to 1973, shortly after the Clean Water Act was signed into law. In the last decade the rule has strictly come down on agriculture and 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 could save up to $240 million in Arkansas alone. For the entire country, it could 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. Therefore, small farmers and ranchers should not be imposed with unrealistic regulations from Washington bureaucrats.

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