Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3158, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act, sponsored by Congressman Rick Crawford, (R-AR). The legislation will modify the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule that places an unnecessary burden on farmers and ranchers. The bipartisan legislation will now move to the Senate.
“The EPA’s spill containment regulation would cost farmers and ranchers literally tens of thousands of dollars to make significant improvements in their infrastructure. On top of that, producers have to procure the costly services of Professional Engineers or PEs just to certify compliance and I’ve heard that some states don’t even have PEs qualified to provide that consultation,” said Crawford. “My proposal – the FUELS Act –would change EPA’s burdensome spill containment regulations to exempt small farmers who can’t afford to comply. We’ve got some analysis on this from the University Of Arkansas Division Of Agriculture and they conclude that my proposal would save Arkansas producers alone up to $252 million. For the entire Nation, it would save up to $3.36 billion”
The EPA mandated Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule would require that oil storage facilities with a capacity of over 1,320 gallons make costly structural improvements to reduce the possibility of oil spills. The plan requires farmers to construct a containment facility, like a dike or a basin, which must retain 110 percent of the fuel in the container. These mandated infrastructure improvements – along with third-party certification – would add a tremendous financial burden on producers at a time when farm revenues are significantly impacted by widespread drought.
Crawford’s FUELS Act will modify the rules by raising the exemption levels to better reflect a producer’s spill risk and financial resources. The exemption level for a single container would be adjusted upward to 10,000 gallons while the aggregate level on a production facility would move to 42,000 gallons. The proposal would also place a greater degree of responsibility on the farmer or rancher to self-certify compliance if it exceeds the exemption level.
Below are Congressman Crawford’s full remarks introducing the FUELS Act on the House floor:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members from both parties who joined in cosponsoring this bipartisan bill, H.R. 3158, that will provide regulatory relief to our family farmers.
The EPA mandated Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure program, or SPCC, requires that oil storage facilities with a capacity of over 1,320 gallons make costly infrastructure modification to reduce the possibility of oil spills. The regulations require farmers to construct a containment facility, like a dike or a basin, which must retain 110 percent of the fuel in the container. These mandated infrastructure improvements – along with the necessary inspection and certification by a specially licensed Professional Engineer – will cost many farmers tens of thousands of dollars. In some cases, compliance costs could reach higher than $60,000 for farmers in my district.
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 the rules have been amended, delayed, and extended dozens of times, creating enormous confusion in the farming community. On top of that, the EPA has failed to engage in effective outreach to producers and cooperatives on SPCC application.
In 2009, the EPA lifted a 2006 rule that suspended compliance requirements for small farms with oil storage of 10,000 gallons or less. The rule applies to more than just fuel – it applies to hydraulic oil, adjuvant, oil, crop oil, vegetable oil, and even animal fat. It was scheduled to go into effect this past November.
Last summer, I headed up an effort to send a bipartisan letter with over 100 cosigners to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson highlighting problems with the program and requesting a permanent fix. At the very least, I requested a delay so farmers impacted by last year’s natural disasters would have more time to comply. The EPA responded only a few weeks before the November deadline, and issued a statement saying they wouldn’t begin enforcement until May of 2013. While we were thankful for the delay, this action still didn’t do anything to fix the burden on small farms – it just kicked the can down the road.
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 environmental protection, the producer must be able to demonstrate that he or she has no history of oil spills.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation is necessary because the existing regulations are not only burdensome to small farmers – they are unenforceable. According to USDA, the current regulations would bring more than 70% of farms into the SPCC regulatory net. This is more than a million and a half farms in the SPCC regulatory net next year.
The University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture did a study concluding the FUELS Act would exempt over 80% of producers from SPCC compliance. It could save up to $240 million in costs in Arkansas alone. For the entire country, it could save small farmers up to $3.36 billion.
This year, the agriculture sector of the economy is facing a crisis. Over 2/3 of the nation is being impacted by drought, and farm revenue has dropped substantially. Food costs are projected to skyrocket for consumers. On top of that, the fate of a multi-year farm bill is unknown, creating long-term uncertainty for the agriculture community. The last thing the government should be doing is imposing a regulation on producers that could cost our nation’s family farmers up to $3.36 billion during next year’s planting season. There is absolutely no justification for such an expensive regulation, especially given the fact that the EPA cannot provide data or even anecdotal evidence of agriculture spills.
By nature of occupation, family farmers are already careful stewards of the land and water. No one has more at stake than those who work on the ground from which they derive their livelihood.
I urge adoption of H.R. 3158.