EPA clarifies oil spill prevention rules for farms

Buckeye Farm News

EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule requires any facility with a total above-ground fuel storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried capacity of over 42,000 gallons to have an SPCC plan in place and show that it is following the plan if there is a chance that a spill could end up in navigable waters.

The rules have been in place for years, but there has been confusion as to how – or even if – they applied to farms. The new rule in large part finalizes a rule promulgated near the end of the Bush administration. That proposal was the product of extensive public comment. American Farm Bureau Federation submitted comments and, in the end, got some things but not everything it wanted.

AFBF wanted only farms with 20,000 gallons or more of aboveground storage to be required to have a professional engineer-certified plan. While the final rule did not incorporate that recommendation, it did clarify the definition of a covered facility that allowed the owner to count tanks separately so they do not add up to the threshold amount, as long as the tanks aren’t right next to each other and used for the same purpose.

Originally EPA proposed that all facilities, including farms, be required to hire professional engineers to certify their prevention plans. By the time the agency came out with the December 2008 changes, however, it proposed a tiered approach in response to industry feedback, with farms that hold no more than 5,000 gallons and have no recent history of discharges to navigable waters to be able to use a simplified template provided by EPA.

In fact, AFBF thought that all farms should be able to self certify.

“Farms aren’t the problem here and never have been,” explained Paul Schlegel, AFBF environment and energy policy director.

“Farms have had fuel storage tanks for decades without the kinds of oil spills that this regulation is supposed to prevent, so it isn’t necessary to subject them to the same level of regulation as other industries with more of a record of problems.”

AFBF also asked for farmers and ranchers to have as much as five years to comply with the new rules. Instead, they get just under one year. OFBF will be reviewing the implications of EPA’s ruling for members.

(Originally printed in AFBF’s FB News)

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