WSJ Did Not Publish EPA's Letter Correcting False Claim

Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

According to Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal objecting to a highly misleading editorial published in January. The Journal has evidently declined to publish the letter.

In a January 27 editorial titled "Land of Milk and Regulation" the Journal falsely claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency planned to regulate milk spills under the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program -- which requires certain facilities to have an oil spill prevention plan -- because milk contains "a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil." However, as International Dairy Foods Association official Clay Detlefsen has said, the editorial contained "some inaccuracies."

Indeed, in January 2009 the EPA proposed a to exempt milk containers from the SPCC regulation. In the meantime, the EPA has delayed the compliance date for milk storage containers to ensure that such facilities would not be subject to the oil spill regulation. The EPA informed the National Milk Producers Federation that it would delay compliance in a June 2010 letter and officially announced the action in October.

Somehow, the Journal editorial neglected to mention any of these facts. According to a Factiva search, the newspaper has not reported or commented on the issue since.

The EPA website states that the final rule exempting milk from the SPCC requirements is forthcoming.

Last week Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) cited the Journal editorial during a Congressional hearing to bolster Republicans' claims of "overreach by the EPA." In response, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said that her agency had sent a "letter to the editor" explaining that the claim is "not accurate" -- which she said the Journal "has yet to find the time or space to publish." From the hearing (transcript via Nexis):

FLAKE: [P]lease explain how that is not overreach. We seem to deflect any criticism of anything the EPA's doing that it's not overreach, we're not going too far. Is this not overreach?

MS. JACKSON: More appropriately, it's not accurate. I can just read to you from the letter to the editor that we wrote that I think The Wall Street Journal has yet to find time or space to publish. EPA has already proposed to exclude -- exclude -- milk storage tanks from the spill prevention program. This commonsense decision was announced months before The Wall Street Journal chose to write their inaccurate article.

Moreover, EPA stayed enforcement compliance requirements for tanks pending the final agency action. It's widely known that EPA will take action on this this spring and I can give you a personal update. EPA has already sent the draft final exclusion to the White House. So we are on scheduled to do that which we had announced months ago. I have no idea why The Wall Street Journal chose to inaccurately report. We have tried to fix the record. But I don't believe they're published it.

By contrast, several other publications have published the EPA's letters about this claim after it was pushed by syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell.

Here are letters that the Journal did post about the editorial:

It's Hard to Take the EPA Seriously on This

Never did I suspect that I was living on a future Superfund site ("Land of Milk and Regulation," Review & Outlook, Jan. 27). Yes, I spent my childhood on a dairy farm, and sometimes milk was spilled. I believe none of the spilled milk left the borders of the farm, and the cats were usually delighted to help with the cleanup. A large number of people are too many generations removed from the land. If the people at the Environmental Protection Agency believe milk fat is dangerous, they obviously need some education. Have they never eaten butter?

Irene Eggers

Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Your editorial had me up all night. I just could not get out of my mind the fact that my local supermarket probably has as much milk on hand as a small dairy. How long before the EPA sets guidelines for them too? "Milk cleanup on aisle nine" will have a whole new meaning when it triggers a mass evacuation, a cordoning off of the neighborhood and a call to the guys in the biohazard suits.

And what about at home? Pouring that quart of sour milk down the drain probably will become a federal crime of felony endangerment of the planetary biosphere.

Jim Sidinger

Greenwood Village, Colo.

Here is an idea: Fire anyone who had anything to do with this bureaucratic idea and give the $3 million to be spent on this program to veterans who need housing.

James Bethanis

Prescott, Ariz.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Government, Cabinet & Agencies
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.