SPCC Rule Changes – Reprise: Do the Changes Help Industry?

On Thursday, October 14, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency published a Final Rule, “Oil Pollution Prevention; Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule – Compliance Date Amendment.”  Basically, this rule provided an extension (to November 10, 2011) for many different types of industries for compliance with the SPCC rule amendments.

The extension of the compliance date is NOT all encompassing, and it is important to understand how these amendments may affect you and your business.

This action is the result of a proposed amendment by the EPA on August 3, 2010, in which the EPA proposed to amend the date by which certain facilities must prepare or amend their plans. 

However, EPA points out that they are “…not extending the compliance date for drilling, production, or workover facilities that are offshore or have an offshore component or for onshore facilities, required to have and submit Facility Response Plans (FRPs).”

Accordingly, if you are required to have an FRP, your deadline to comply with the amendments remains to be November 10, 2010.

Below, we have provided answers to some of the most common questions we have received as it relates to the SPCC rules, amendments, and the extension.

Question: Does this new Final Rule mean I don’t have to develop an SPCC plan until November 2011?

Answer: That depends. If you were in operation prior to August 16, 2002, and you were required to have an SPCC, you are still required to have an SPCC plan – you simply have an extension as it relates to the amendments to the SPCC rule. If you began operations after August 16, 2002, you have an extension to November 10, 2011.

Question: I was in operation prior to August 16, 2002; does this mean I have to develop an SPCC plan?

Answer: If you have the capacity to store (in above-ground tanks) more than 1,320 gallons of regulated materials (e.g., oils, diesel fuel, gasoline, etc), you likely need an SPCC plan.  You may have an option to self-certify, if your capacity to store is less than 10,000 gallons aggregate or less than 5,000 gallons in an individual container.  A less likely scenario for many companies is underground storage tank capacity of greater than 42,000 gallons, which would also require an SPCC plan.

Question: I have a 2,000-gallon tank, but I typically only store 800 gallons – do I need an SPCC plan?

Answer: Yes, the rule is based on capacity.  If you don’t need this much capacity, consider getting a smaller tank. You certainly have the option of changing the storage capacity to remain below the regulatory threshold and potentially avoid the SPCC requirements.

Question: Does the EPA have a database to know who needs a plan, and do I have to give them a copy of my plan?

Answer:  No and no.  The EPA does not have a master database.  Enforcement is most often the result of a spill or release.  Additionally, enforcement can be prompted because someone nearby complained, a former employee called the EPA or State regulators, or there is an industry-specific action (e.g., a focus on food manufacturing, auto shop repair, dry cleaners, etc…).  When you develop (and implement) a plan, it typically remains on your site.  You must make it available, if an EPA or State inspector, or the EPA Regional Administrator, requests a copy.

If you have any questions regarding environmental compliance issues or need assistance, please contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) or Khaled Chekiri, P.E. (kchekiri@dragun.com) at 248.932.0228.

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SPCC Final Rule – But Not the Final Word

On Thursday, October 14, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency published a Final Rule, “Oil Pollution Prevention; Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule – Compliance Date Amendment.”  Basically, this rule provided an extension (to November 10, 2011) for many different types of industries (including agriculture) for compliance with the SPCC rule amendments.

In the Final Rule the EPA also stated they are delaying “the compliance date by which the owner or operator of a facility must address milk and milk product containers, associated piping and appurtenances that are constructed according to the current applicable 3–A Sanitary Standards, and subject to the current applicable Grade ‘A’ Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) or a State dairy regulatory requirement equivalent to the current applicable PMO. The date by which the owner or operator of a facility must comply with SPCC requirements for these milk and milk product containers is delayed one year from the effective date of a final rule specifically addressing these milk and milk product containers, associated piping and appurtenances, or as specified by a rule that otherwise establishes a new compliance date for these facilities.”

This action had been pending and fully anticipated. We discussed this issue at each of the three SPCC seminars that were held in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois specifically for dairy producers.

This action does provide temporary relief for some producers.  Additionally, we hope to see some final action in the very near future that will provide clear guidance for storage of milk.  In an effort to clear up some areas of confusion, we are providing a question and answer format that reflects many of the types of questions we have received over the past few months.

Question: Does this mean milk is now exempt?

Answer: No, not yet at least.  It means the EPA is still evaluating the potential exemption and any final action associated with the milk issue will be published in the Federal Register at a later date.

Question: Does this mean I don’t have to develop an SPCC plan until November 2011?

Answer: That depends.  If you were in operation prior to August 16, 2002, and you were required to have an SPCC, you are still required to have an SPCC plan – you simply have an extension as it relates to the amendments to the SPCC rule.  If you began operations after August 16, 2002, you have an extension to November 10, 2011.

Question: I was in operation prior to August 16, 2002; does this mean I have to develop an SPCC plan?

Answer: If you have the capacity to store (in above ground tanks) more than 1,320 gallons of regulated materials (e.g., oils, diesel fuel, gasoline, etc) you likely need an SPCC plan.  You may have an option to self-certify if your capacity to store is less than 10,000 gallons aggregate or less than 5,000 gallons in an individual container.  A less likely scenario for agriculture is underground storage tank capacity of greater than 42,000 gallons, which would also require an SPCC plan.

Question: I have a 2,000 gallon tank, but I typically only store 800 gallons – do I need an SPCC plan?

Answer: Yes, the rule is based on capacity.  If you don’t need this much capacity, consider getting a smaller tank. You certainly have the option of changing the storage capacity to below the regulatory threshold to potentially avoid the SPCC requirements.

Question: Does the EPA have a database to know who needs a plan, and do I have to give them a copy of my plan?

No and no.  The EPA does not have a master database.  Typically enforcement is prompted because someone nearby complained, a former employee called the EPA or State regulators, or there is an industry specific action (e.g., a focus on dairy farms, auto shop repair, dry cleaners etc…) When you develop (and implement) a plan, it remains on your site.  You make it available, if and, when an EPA or State inspector requests a copy.

If you have any questions regarding environmental compliance issues or need assistance, contact Matthew Schroeder, P.E. (mschroeder@dragun.com) or Christopher Paré (cpare@dragun.com) at 248.932.0228.

Environmental Enforcement: Spill Plans on the “Radar”

According the newsletter, “Environmental Compliance Alert,” one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “hottest” enforcement crackdowns is Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) compliance.

According to the newsletter, recent enforcement action includes

  • $3.25 million at a pipeline company
  • $11,000 at a Delaware petroleum company
  • $97,000 at a Kansas-based company
  • $9,100 at a Massachusetts-based college

What triggers enforcement?  Many times it is a call from a disgruntled employee or unhappy neighboring property owner.  But we have also recently heard about some “door-to-door” surprise inspections.

If you have a spill plan, make sure it is implemented.  If you don’t know if you need one, ask your consultant.  If you know you need a spill plan, it would be wise to consider developing your plan now.

For more information about SPCCs contact Matthew Schroeder (mschroeder@dragun.com) at 248-932-0228.

New reports from the BP Deepwater Commission – a salient reminder for senior managers

The President’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has generated four new draft reports 

  • Working Paper #2 “Decision-Making within the Unified Command”;
  • Working Paper #3 “The Amount and Fate of the Oil”;
  • Working Paper #4 “The Use of Surface and Subsea Spill Response in the Arctic”; and
  • Working Paper #5 “The Challenges of Oil Drilling.”

Working Paper # 1, “A Brief History of Offshore Drilling” was release on August 23, 2010.

Working Paper # 3 says in part, “The federal government’s estimates of the amount of oil flowing into and later remaining in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Macondo well explosion were the source of significant controversy, which undermined public confidence in the federal government’s response to the spill. By initially underestimating the amount of oil flow and then, at the end of the summer, appearing to underestimate the amount of oil remaining in the Gulf, the federal government created the impression that it was either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem” (Emphasis added).

The “take away” from this for anyone in charge of environmental management is to perhaps take another look not only at your environmental permits and plans, but your communication program as well.  Shareholder confidence (public, local community, investors, employees, etc) is a very fragile thing, especially when dealing with environmental issues. It is never a pleasant task to communicate an environmental incident, large or small.  But if your first environmental communication with your stakeholders is an “incident” this might be an indication that you need to work on developing a better environmental communication program.

Here is a link to the National Commission’s report http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/library#supporting-documents