Hey, did you hear that the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to ban dusty back roads and has fined hundreds of companies $5,000 a day for spilled milk?
You probably have—Republicans have been beating the drum over both as examples of regulation run amok.
The problem: The rules don’t exist, never did, and are not in the works.
Still, the stories have gained surprising traction—even, in the case of the road-dust story, spawning no less than three federal bills to fight a rule that doesn’t exist.
‘You Can Be Fined for Driving Home’
“Now, here comes my favorite of the crazy regulatory acts,” Rep. John Carter (R-TX) recently said in a speech on the House floor. “The EPA is now saying you can be fined for driving home every night on your gravel road.”
|“The EPA is now saying you can be fined for driving home every night on your gravel road,” said Rep. John Carter (R-TX). No such regulation is proposed.|
Carter said EPA had proposed a rule that would require farmers and other rural residents to “go out and spend $20,000 and pave your driveway, five miles of driveway.”
He added: “Make sure you put a certain kind of pavement, because it’s got to have pavement that doesn’t kick up dust.”
Even farmers who pave roads might be in trouble, Carter said, because “paving it might kick up enough dust to get you fined anyway. The EPA wants to regulate dust.”
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain has also joined the farm-dust bandwagon, citing the alleged rule as a reason to eliminate the EPA.
“Now, I know that makes some people nervous, but the EPA has gone wild,” Cain said Sept. 22 in a GOP debate in Orlando. “The fact that they have a regulation that goes into effect January 1, 2012, to regulate dust says that they’ve gone too far.”
3 Bills Fight Phantom Rule
No such regulation is planned regarding PM10, which includes farm dust, much less taking effect on Jan. 1.
Still, the stories have proved so persistent that they have launched three bills in Congress to prevent any such thing.
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is sponsoring one of those measures. Although EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said, and written, that the agency has no plan to regulate open-air farm dust, Noem is not satisfied.
Her bill, which has drawn 111 co-sponsors, would weaken EPA’s power to do so in the future. The bill passed a House subcommittee on Nov. 3.
“This EPA has been very hard on business in this country, and this EPA has been very hard on agriculture,” Noem said. “I think it’s time we pushed back.”
Fining Bessie the Cow
The flap began about a year ago, when Arizona and California began to require some farmers to take some dust-control measures. Later, an advisory panel to EPA recommended a wider standard. Jackson, however, declined to act, saying repeatedly that she would not propose such a standard. And none has been drafted.
That did not stop House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) from criticizing what he called “EPA’s proposed regulations” on farm dust in an op-ed in The Washington Post.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) followed up with: “Say Bessie the cow kicks up too much dust running over to your pickup truck at feeding time. The EPA is going to fine you for Bessie’s misconduct.”
Spokesmen for Boehner, Poe and Carter all told The Washington Post that “their bosses knew there was no actual proposed rule” and “were speaking hypothetically …. about the threat of a possible rule,” reported. A Cantor spokesman offered no explanation.
Decrying Over Spilled Milk
The fictitious spilled-milk regulation—the target of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)—also has observers scratching their heads.
|Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says “hundreds of companies” have been fined $5,000 a day for spilled milk. His office could provide no documentation.|
Appearing Nov. 7 at a small-business seminar at a local community center, Hunter told the crowd that it was “impossible” for business to keep up with today’s regulations.
He cited this example:
“If you spilled milk on your factory floor, it’s $5,000 a day fined by the EPA,” Hunter said. “Spilled milk is considered an oil spill. It, it was. President Obama just had the EPA roll back the rule.”
He went on: “Literally, if you spilled milk on your factory floor, it was considered an oil spill and you can be fined, and people were fined—hundreds of companies fined—$5,000 a day for spilled milk. When you have rules like that and you are a small business, it is impossible to succeed.”
However, Hunter’s office was unable later to provide any documentation of any such fines. Nor does EPA have any record of any such regulation, much less fines imposed.
Even the Washington-based International Dairy Foods Association, a lobbying group, told lamesapatch.com: “We do not have any information on dairy companies that may have been fined for milk spills by the EPA.”
In April, in fact, EPA specifically exempted milk production, handling and transfer from the agency’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations.
A spokesman for Hunter told lamesapatch.com: “The congressman’s point underscores that regulation—supported by this [Obama] administration—is hurting the economy.”