Washington, D.C. - Thirty three Senators joined today to send a bipartisan letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that EPA extend the implementation timeline for the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule for farmers, and work to ensure that the rule is not overly burdensome or confusing.
In an effort to prevent oil spills, the EPA requires that certain facilities develop and implement oil spill prevention, control, and countermeasures. It's common practice for farms and ranches to have fuel storage tanks and containers. The SPCC program calls for farmers and other facilities to have an oil spill prevention plan to avoid spills which can damage water resources needed for farming operations. Last year, the EPA proposed extending the compliance date under the SPCC rule to November of 2011 and only for farms that came into business after August of 2002. However, concerns have been raised that not all farms have sufficient opportunity to meet their obligations under this rule.
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), senior member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent the letter with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Max Baucus (D-MT), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD), and David Vitter (R-LA).
Senator Inhofe: "Today a significant number of rural state Senators are sending a clear bipartisan message to the EPA that it must extend the implementation timeline for the SPCC rule for farmers. EPA has set stringent, costly standards without ensuring that small farms in Oklahoma and across the nation can comply: many farmers do not have access to the professional engineers needed to bring them into compliance, and many others, who were previously not subject to this rule, may now have to comply on very short notice due to EPA's draft guidance document. An extended timeline is not just desired, it is absolutely necessary. I will be working with my colleagues to ensure that this issue gets resolved in a timely manner. "
Senator Conrad: "The SPCC rule is confusing and compliance under the EPA's timeline is putting an added burden on North Dakota's family farmers and those all across rural America. We are asking the EPA to seek further conversation with agricultural community to create a regulation and a timeline that makes sense for all parties."
Support for the SPCC timeline extension from the Farming Community
"The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) would like to thank Senators Inhofe and Conrad for their leadership on the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule as it affects farmers and ranchers. NCBA is the nation's oldest and largest trade association for cattle producers and represents more than 147,000 cattle producers through direct membership and our state and breed affiliates. We fully support their efforts to extend the compliance deadline, which will give cattle producers the additional time needed to implement the rule in their operations. Cattle producers want to be in compliance with the regulation, but they must have the resources available to do so. Compliance with the rule will cost producers thousands of dollars at a time when their budgets are very limited due to the economic downturn. In addition, the farming community in many instances lacks access to an adequate number of Professional Engineers (PEs) to do the engineering work required. Without access to PEs, it is impossible for farmers to become SPCC compliant. The lack of technical professionals creates the need for an extension of the compliance deadline. NCBA would like to thank them for all their efforts to provide relief from the looming compliance deadline for the SPCC rule for farmers and ranchers across the country. - Bill Donald, President of National Cattlemen's Beef Association
"The timeline for implementation of the SPCC rule continues to be troublesome for many farmers who, despite best efforts, have been unable to complete their oil spill prevention plans. Often this is because access to registered professional engineers willing to review and approve plans is limited at best or not available at worst. The National Cotton Council (NCC), on behalf of its members, applauds the pilot initiative announced October 21, 2010 by the Department of Agriculture and administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help agricultural producers comply with the revised SPCC regulations by the EPA. Senator Inhofe and Conrad's effort represents a great first step in helping producers understand and work toward complying with regulations. The NCC would like this cost share program expanded to ensure access for all producers. An additional extension of the deadline by EPA combined with more extensive outreach by the agency working in conjunction with the NRCS pilot initiative would be most helpful in achieving the desired compliance results." -National Cotton Council