Farmers still sorting out EPA’s spill prevention rules

Buckeye Farm News

Under a rule that the Environmental Protection Agency finalized in 2008, farms that store oil of any kind – petroleum, vegetable, animal fats, etc. – amounting to more than 1,320 gallons above-ground or 42,000 gallons of buried storage capacity will have to have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure plan and maintain records to show that they are following the plan.

Otherwise, if a spill occurs they will face legal liability. Spill prevention plans must describe the preventative control measures that are in place and the response actions that would be taken in case of a spill. Under the rule, a spill is one that reaches navigable waters, or “waters of the U.S.”

The Environmental Protection Agency in early August put out a proposal to extend by one year the compliance deadline for some facilities that must prepare spill prevention plans under the federal rule.

However, the extension only applies to two categories of farms: those that came into operation since August 2002, when EPA revised the regulations to clarify which facilities were covered; and dairies whose milk storage facilities may already be covered by FDA or other regulations.

The newer operations will now have until Nov. 10, 2011, to comply. Dairies will have until one year after EPA finalizes a still-pending regulation on how to treat (or exempt) milk storage containers.

Older farms, according to EPA, have always been subject to the SPCC rule and must have a plan already in place.

“Anyone in business before August 2002 was, in EPA’s view, already required to have a spill prevention control plan under an older version of the SPCC regulations, although hardly anyone knew about them,” explained Paul Schlegel, an environmental lobbyist and regulatory specialist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “EPA never made it a point to reach out to the farm community and tell them how the rule applied to farms and ranches, so this has been confusing and surprising for a lot of people. However, now the word is going out – farmers must have the required plans in place.”

Farms with above-ground fuel storage of 10,000 gallons or less, no single container of more than 5,000 gallons and no recent history of oil spills, which EPA calls Tier I facilities, will be able to use a plan template available on EPA’s website (available at this link) and self-certify their plans. Farms with larger amounts of fuel storage are required to hire professional engineers to certify their prevention plans.

Since many farmers and ranchers are just now becoming aware of the SPCC requirements, AFBF urged the EPA to provide guidance specific to agriculture. The agency has since posted farm specific information on its website (found at this link).

Compiled from the Aug. 23 FB News, published by American Farm Bureau

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