Steve Forbes Falsely Claims EPA Is “Regulating Milk Spills”

Steve Forbes falsely claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency is “now regulating milk spills as part of an oil spill program,” to which Fox Business host Stuart Varney replied, “That is true as a matter of fact.” In fact, EPA has already said it will “exclude milk and milk product storage tanks from the spill prevention regulatory program.”

Forbes Falsehood: EPA Is “Regulating Milk Spills”

Forbes And Varney Claim That The EPA Is “Regulating Milk Spills As Part Of An Oil Spill Program.” From the March 4 edition of Fox Business Network's Varney & Company:

FORBES: We can produce far more oil, far, far more natural gas, more nuclear energy, coal -- low-sulfur coal, they're blocking that too.

VARNEY: But what -- come on, why are they doing this? I mean, everybody knows the fallout.

FORBES: Because I think they genuinely believe that we can go back to medieval times and have windmills.

VARNEY: No, no--

FORBES: They truly believe we can have windmills, solar energy, and of course, as you know, that will just take us back to a medieval economy, but they don't seem to be connecting those dots.

VARNEY: It must be because the environmentalists hold enormous power over this administration. And that's something I don't understand.

FORBES: They may hold power, but it's a receptive power. The administration believes it. Look at the EPA. They block one area on cap and trade. Then they do another area, then another area. Heck they're even now regulating milk spills as part of an oil spill program.

VARNEY: That is true as a matter of fact. [Fox Business Network, Varney & Company, 3/4/11]

EPA: Milk Will Be Excluded From The Spill Prevention Rule

EPA “Stayed Any Compliance Requirements For Milk And Milk Product Storage Tanks” While It Finalizes “Permanent Exclusion.” Responding to a February 2 syndicated column by Thomas Sowell, EPA official Mathy Stanislaus wrote in a letter:

The Feb. 2 national opinion column, “The EPA seeks to expand its bureaucracy,'' by Thomas Sowell, gives readers the impression that the Environmental Protection Agency intends to regulate all small dairy farms as part of its work to prevent oil spills. This is incorrect.

EPA has already proposed to exclude milk and milk product storage tanks from the spill prevention regulatory program. This common-sense decision was announced months ago. Moreover, EPA already has stayed any compliance requirements for milk and milk product storage tanks pending the agency's final action on the proposed permanent exclusion. It is known that EPA will take final action on the proposed permanent exclusion this spring. [The Tennessean, 2/10/11]

  • EPA Proposed Excluding Milk Containers In January 2009. According to the EPA website, “in January, 2009 EPA proposed a rule to exempt milk containers from the SPCC rule. We proposed this exemption because we believe that milk production is already subject to sanitary standards that will help prevent spills. EPA already has delayed any compliance requirements for milk and milk product storage containers pending the agency's final action on the proposed exemption." EPA further states that the agency “expects to finalize a rule exempting milk and milk product containers in spring 2011.” [, 2/16/11]

Greenwire: EPA “Has Fully Excused Dairies From The Requirement To Plan For Spills On Their Property.” From a February 11 Greenwire article:

To Republicans, it sounds like the perfect symbol of a regulatory agency run amok: U.S. EPA treating spilled milk the same way that it does spilled oil.


But the back story behind the milk rule is more complicated, dating back to the implementation of Clean Water Act mandates for spill-response planning in the 1970s and flaring up under the George W. Bush administration's EPA, according to dairy industry officials. While milk producers are not declaring victory until EPA issues a final exemption for their businesses, the agency has fully excused dairies from the requirement to plan for spills on their property.


The so-called Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, first imposed 38 years ago, calls on oil and gas companies to guard against any release of their products into waterways or onto shorelines. The regulation took on new political volatility after last year's Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, when BP PLC was lambasted for failing to have enough equipment in place to contain its multimillion-gallon gusher, but EPA was moving to give milk producers a break from the rules during that summertime spill.

“EPA has already proposed to exclude milk storage tanks from the spill prevention regulatory program” and “has stayed any compliance requirements for milk storage tanks pending the agency's final action,” the agency said in a statement. “It is widely known that EPA will take final action on the proposed permanent exclusion this spring.” [Greenwire, 2/11/11]

Dairy Representative Said Widely-Cited Wall Street Journal Editorial Contained “Inaccuracies.” From the Greenwire article:

Meanwhile, as EPA worked on the scope of its final SPCC exemption for milk containers, dairy companies began pressing their case on Capitol Hill. Armed with estimates of $155 million in industrywide compliance costs should their facilities not be excluded, dairy groups urged EPA to save their industry further uncertainty by finishing its exclusion.

How that effort began to snowball into the milk rule's use as an effective talking point is difficult to determine.

House Republican critics of the agency were citing the spill regulation and proposing bills to force EPA's hand on an exclusion as far back as mid-2010 (E&E Daily, May 28, 2010).

But President Obama's recent drive to eliminate unnecessary or overlapping federal regulations, punctuated by a State of the Union quip about salmon, appears to have driven the milk-spill exclusion into the mainstream.

A Wall Street Journal editorial two days later fanned the flames with what [International Dairy Foods Association Vice President Clay] Detlefsen described as “some inaccuracies,” including a contention that EPA was planning to apply SPCC rules to dairies, rather than grant an exemption.

With a final exemption for milk producers expected from EPA within weeks, the dairy industry is hoping to see language from the agency that generally tracks with the original proposed rule issued in January 2009. [Greenwire, 2/11/11]

  • EPA: Wall Street Journal Did Not Publish Letter To Editor About The False Claim. In a March 3 report, Politico noted that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) cited the Journal editorial during a Congressional hearing. Politico further reported EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's response:

“How can the EPA promulgate new rules like this?” Flake asked. “What's next, sippy cups in the House cafeteria?”

Jackson's response: “Well sir, it's not accurate.”

Jackson offered to read to Flake from the letter to the editor sent to the Wall Street Journal that the publication has “yet to find the time or space to publish.” The EPA has “already proposed to exclude - exclude -- milk storage tanks from the spill prevention program,” she added. “This common sense decision was announced months before the Wall Street Journal chose to write their inaccurate article.”

The EPA chief said the misunderstanding on the milk rule is an example of the misinformation surrounding many of the agency's actions. “Many of the things that EPA is accused of are in my mind attempts to misinform people about what is actually happening,” she said. “What is happening on the ground is that we're not intending nor do I believe will ever regulate milk.” [Politico, 3/3/11]