Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to exempt dairy farmers from provisions of the Clean Water Act that, since 1970, have required them to develop and implement plans to handle a milk spill – the same provision that requires oil companies to develop plans to deal with oil spills.

(Previously, the EPA had claimed this authority to require such spill prevention plans because milk contains animal fat – an oil.)

According to the senator’s office, the EPA’s announcement is a long-awaited change in regulation that will save the New York dairy industry thousands of dollars that they would have had to spend complying with the regulation. The new rule will potentially save the U.S. milk and dairy industries over $140 million per year.

Today’s final exemption applies to milk, milk product containers, and milk production equipment.  In addition, because some of these facilities may still have oil storage subject to the spill prevention regulations, EPA is also amending the rule to exclude milk storage capacity from a facility’s total oil storage capacity calculation. The agency is also removing the compliance date requirements for the exempted containers.