Congressman Denny Rehberg, Tuesday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to consider the economic ramifications of a new regulation that will require many Montana ag producers to have a professionally-certified oil spill prevention plan in place by November 10, 2011. The requirement may cost producers thousands of dollars.
As of November 10, the EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC) will apply to any producer with an above-ground oil storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons, and those with over 10,000 gallons of storage will need their plan to be professionally-certified.
Rehberg has heard from area constituents that have concerns about the regulation. They told the congressman that as the regulation is currently written, there is not sufficient guidance on which oil spill plans would be in compliance and which plans would not. Rehberg and the ranchers say the uncertainty exposes farmers and ranchers to the risk that they could be fined despite having a plan in place if that plan is not deemed compliant by the EPA.
Gordon Stoner, President of the Montana Grain Growers Association and a grain producer from Outlook, MT noted that the majority of Montana farming operations have on-site containers for fuel and oil storage both for convenience and also to help mitigate the volatility of fuel prices. Stoner added “With the deadline for compliance quickly approaching, there is still a lot of uncertainty among farmers about what they need to do and how much it will cost to implement spill prevention measures and hire a professional engineer for certification.”
Rehberg’s letter said “I urge you to consider the economic costs that this could bring to agriculture producers in my state of Montana and across the country. Any producer with oil storage capacity over 1,320 gallons is subject to this proposal, which includes a large portion of Montana’s farmers and ranchers. The economic costs of this rule are a significant burden to large and small producers. It does not make sense at this time to add additional financial requirements during tough economic times. While I share the agency’s concern about preventing oil spills, farmers and ranchers already have valuable incentives to prevent oil spills on their own property, namely that their livelihoods depend on using sound environmental practices….” I am concerned about potential ambiguity regarding the enforcement of this rule. There is not sufficient guidance on which plans would be in compliance and which plans would not. This uncertainty exposes farmers and ranchers to the risk that they could be fined despite having a plan in place if that plan is not deemed compliant by the EPA.”