By Stephanie McMullen, Assistant General Counsel
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2002 amendments to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules were supposed to go into effect on Nov. 11, 2011, for most of the regulated community. However, on Oct. 18, 2011, the EPA changed that date for farms to May 10, 2013. The purpose of the SPCC regulations is to have covered facilities develop written plans to prevent oil discharges from reaching the waters of the United States. Facilities covered by the regulations include farms that meet the criteria for aggregate on-farm fuel storage. Although the original regulation was published in 1974, several amendments have been made over the past decade which impacts the requirements of those subject to it. Farms that fail to comply with the regulation risk having the EPA assess significant fines.
The deadlines for implementing a Plan are as follows:
1. A farm starting operation on or before August 16, 2002, must maintain their existing SPCC Plan and amend and implement the SPCC Plan no later than May 10, 2013.
2. A farm starting operation after August 16, 2002, through May 10, 2013, must prepare and implement the SPCC Plan no later than May 10, 2013.
3. A farm starting operation after May 10, 2013, must prepare and implement an SPCC Plan before beginning operations.
A farm under the SPCC is a facility on a tract of land devoted to the production of crops or raising of animals, including fish, which normally produces and sells $1,000 or more of agricultural products per year. Farms that must have an SPCC Plan are those that store more than 1,320 gallons of oil in above-ground containers or more than 42,000 gallons of oil in completely buried containers; and the farms have a reasonable expectation of an oil discharge to a waterway or adjoining shoreline. The only containers that have to be counted are those that have a storage capacity of 55 gallons or greater. Different parcels of land, either leased or owned, with storage may be considered separate facilities and do not need to be added together in determining whether the 1,320-gallon applicability threshold is met. Oil can be of any kind or in any form. Some examples of oil on the farm are gasoline, off-road and on-road diesel fuel, hydraulic oil, lubrication oil, crop oil and vegetable oils from crops.
Farmers with a covered facility must prepare an SPCC Plan in writing and in accordance with the regulations. The EPA does not approve the Plan, but the Plan is required upon an inspection or if a spill does occur. Farmers may prepare and self-certify their own Plans if their farm has a total oil storage capacity of 10,000 gallons or less and a clean spill history. A Plan template is available at the EPA website that can be downloaded and used if the farm meets the specified criteria. However, for farms with a total above-ground oil storage capacity of over 10,000 gallons or have had a bad spill history, Plans are required to be certified by a professional engineer.
Plans must meet certain EPA requirements to be valid. A written Plan needs to describe the following: the oil handling operations to prevent spills; the discharge or drainage control measures (such as secondary containment); and the countermeasures to contain, clean up and mitigate spills. The Plan also needs to list the emergency contacts and first responders. The Plan must be maintained at the farm if the farm is manned four hours or more per day, or if not, then at the nearest field office. Farmers are required to conduct and document a five-year review of the Plan and provide details about amendments.
Farmers must provide appropriate secondary containment or equipment to prevent discharges. A few examples are dikes and berms, sumps and collection systems or retention ponds. The containment must be sized to hold the full capacity of the container plus rainfall. Amendments made by the EPA to the regulations clarify that portable containers used at farms to store and transport fuel to farm equipment, such as nurse tanks, are excluded from the sized secondary containment requirement, but general secondary containment, such as using sorbent materials or drip pans, still applies.
The EPA has exempted the following from the SPCC Plan requirement:
1. Pesticide application equipment;
2. Heating oil containers at single-family residences;
3. Motive power containers (such as tractors); and
4. Milk or milk product containers.
Last year, a farm in Oregon was fined for a diesel fuel spill that the EPA found could have been prevented if the farm had a plan in place.
If your farm meets the criteria for aggregate on-farm fuel storage, you will need to have a plan in place by May 10, 2013. For more detailed information and assistance and the SPCC Plan template, please go to the EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/index.htm.