LANSING – The Gulf oil disaster demonstrated less regulation and oversight is not a good thing. Someone better tell that to the Michigan Senate Republicans.
On Wednesday, the Senate approved resolution 158 that urges “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rescind rules that would require dairy farms to have oil spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks.” It passed – unfortunately, with bipartisan support – by a vote of 24-10.
Eric Barren at Michigan Liberal had a good on this a few days before Wednesday’s vote:
“The definition of oil is not "petroleum." Oils are substances that at room temperature are viscous liquids that don't mix with water. Alas, the critical, illuminating piece of science is buried under reverse Ripperisms ("Ice cream, Mandrake, childrens' ice cream?"), accusations of government run amok and the standard objection of seemingly insensitive environmental lobbyists.
Those objections, incidentally, make a good deal more sense if you highlight the -- you know -- fundamental science of the issue rather than descending into the same lousy environmental reporting that has helped slow our collective response to global warming for two decades. Instead, we get some tired old narrative about gummint bureaucrats run amok, and policy direction that pretends that calling something an oil is the same thing as calling it petroleum, which itself places policy at odds with basic science definitions.”
The sponsor of the resolution, Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, said if the EPA does not act to rescind the rules, we should ignore the law.
Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, noted the irony of that position. Kuipers is running for Congress in the seat vacated by “Twitter” Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland.
“I find it ironic that the previous speaker says we should disregard federal law, yet he is on a mission to go there and make it,” Whitmer said. “With regard to this resolution in front of us, this is a resolution and I think it is odd timing to ask that the EPA not require prevention plans for oil spills; anyone watching C-SPAN around here?”
Whitmer said milk is a wholesome product in a child’s body but not in Michigan’s waterways. Milk can have very serious environmental consequences once released into our surface waters.
Whitmer said according the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, milk has a high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). BOD measures the amount of oxygen consumed when organic matter, such as milk, is broken down by bacteria. In streams and lakes, bacteria would need the dissolved oxygen from 1,600 gallons of water to break down the organic matter in one pint of milk. Because it depletes oxygen, discharging milk into surface waters can upset biological communities and kill fish. The minimum tank size of 1,320 gallons would be enough to deplete the oxygen in almost 17 million gallons of water.
“Milk also has a high concentration of phosphorus, a nutrient that causes the growth of algae and aquatic plants which can deplete oxygen levels in our lakes and streams, exacerbating an existing problem with excess phosphorus in our waterways,” she said. “In today’s world, it’s especially true that it is not unreasonable to ask that emergency plans be in place in case of milk spills or the failure of bulk milk storage tanks.”
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have been cited for polluting rivers and streams in Michigan with runoff from manure, and these are huge factory farms. A small CAFO would have 1,000 cows that would result in, at the rate of 20 gallons a day per cow, a volume of milk reaching 20,000 gallons a day. But the largest CAFO in this state hosts 3,000. So we are talking about 60,000 gallons of milk a day.
“Now just to put this in perspective, we are not talking about a few cows and a pretty red barn with a dairy maid sitting on a stool with a little bucket milking a cow,” said Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor. “That is not what happens on these farms these days. We have, unfortunately, in this state made it all too easy for CAFOs to operate in this state after they were expelled by the country of the Netherlands.”