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EPA Addresses Oil Spill Rule

What the SPCC rule means for producers

By John Larson, Ginah Mortensen and Troy Swackhammer
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program has been around since 1974. The program’s goal is to prevent oil spills from damaging our water, land and natural resources. Farmers and livestock producers can reduce the risk of oil released from their tanks and avoid costs and the damage caused by such releases by developing plans and taking some basic precautions. The objective of an SPCC plan is to prevent the release of oil products and have a response plan in case of a spill that may contaminate waters of the United States. For purposes of the rule, oil includes, but is not limited to, petroleum oils, fuel (gasoline, diesel, etc.), sludge, synthetic oils, oil refuse and oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil. Oil also includes animal fats, milk, vegetable oils and fish oils.

Following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding EPA’s Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule:

 
Q. Who needs an SPCC plan?

A. Not every farm or livestock operation needs an SPCC plan. The rule requires facilities that store more than 1,320 gallons of oil or fuel in above ground containers (or more than 42,000 gallons in buried containers) to have an SPCC plan if a release could reasonably be expected to discharge into waters of the United States. Containers with a capacity of 55 gallons or more (such as drums, totes and tanks) are counted toward the 1,320-gallon threshold. Containers located on separate parcels can be considered separately when calculating whether the threshold is met. Pesticide containers and application equipment, residential heating oil tanks located at the home on the farmstead and fuel tanks used to power the tractor and farm trucks are exempted from the SPCC rule.

Q. By what date do I need to prepare an SPCC plan?
A. The compliance date to prepare an SPCC plan was recently changed to Nov. 10, 2011. For farms established prior to Aug. 16, 2002, that do not already have an SPCC plan, the owner or operator should prepare and implement a plan now as they are currently out of compliance.

Q. So what does an SPCC plan involve?
A. The plan needs to outline the equipment, personnel training and procedures to prevent oil spills to water. An owner or operator of a farm that has more than 10,000 gallons of oil on a single owned or leased parcel (farmstead or remote locations) must prepare a plan and hire a professional engineer to certify the plan. If the farm has greater than 1,320 gallons up to 10,000 gallons of oil, the owner or operator could be eligible to self-certify the plan if there have been no recent oil spills at the farm. And if there is no single container larger than 5,000 gallons on the farm, then the owner or operator could also be able to fill out and self-certify the SPCC plan template.

Q. How do I get started?
A. Farmers first need to identify the location and contents of containers holding oil and the controls in place to prevent spills. Plans should describe measures in place to prevent any spills from reaching water and the methods and resources available to contain and clean up spills, such as effective, properly sized secondary containment for bulk storage containers; general secondary containment in places where fuel or oil is transferred; and periodic inspection and testing of pipes and containers. Plans should also include a list of emergency contacts and first responders.

Q. In case of a spill, what do I need to do?
A. The owner or operator should follow the cleanup and response procedures in their SPCC plan and notify the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. Operators should also notify EPA directly if more than 1,000 gallons of oil is discharged to water in a single event, or if more than 42 gallons of oil is spilled to water on two different occasions within any 12-month period.

Farmers and livestock producers know the value of clean water. SPCC plans are an effective way to minimize the likelihood of a spill and to ensure that any spills that do occur are contained before they can damage precious water resources.

EPA specialists can assist farmers and livestock producers with compliance in order to protect these valuable resources.

Rice farmers may also contact Steve Hensley, senior director regulatory affairs at (703) 236-2300 or shensley@usarice.com for more information about SPCC.

John Larson, Ginah Mortensen and Troy Swackhammer are with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


HOTLINKS

Useful fact sheet for producers:
www.epa.gov/emergencies/docs/oil/spcc/spccfarms.pdf.

The SPCC plan template:
www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/tier1temp.htm.

The SPCC rule:
www.epa.gov/emergencies/spcc

Questions for the EPA Ag Compliance Assistance Center:
www.epa.gov/agriculture
(888) 663-2155

Questions for the Oil Information Center:
www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/infocenter
(800) 424-9346

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