SPCC Update and Environmental Enforcement Concerns

By now you are likely aware that the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Plan (SPCC) rules (for agriculture) went into full effect…pretty much.  While the rules were final in May 2013, essentially the enforcement was delayed until after September 23rd.

While that date has come and gone, the Senate and House have each passed different version of proposals with SPCC exemption language.  To our knowledge, that is as far as the exemption discussions have reached.

SPCC rules aside, a June 28, 2013, Ohio Court of Appeals ruling from a spill on a farm is a reminder about the cost of spills.

According to the court documents:

On the night of February 13, 2008, the Jefferson Township Fire Department received a call reporting an odor of fuel oil and a visible “sheen” on a local waterway, Swisher Creek. The department responded to the call and followed the leak back from the creek to a machine shop on defendant’s property where two 250-gallon fuel oil tanks were being stored behind the building. Jefferson Township Fire Chief Dale S. Ingram was able to ascertain the source of the leak through stains in the snow and observed that the suspect tank was rusted through and completely drained. Ingram contacted defendant and learned the empty tank was filled a few days before with 250 gallons of fuel oil…

What resulted was a nearly $16,000 cleanup (which is relatively minor in the grand scheme of environmental cleanups).  You can read the ruling here.

With the aforementioned in mind…

  1. Whether you do or don’t need an SPCC, make sure you know the conditions of your storage tanks and maintain them properly.
  2. If you do need an SPCC, don’t wait for enforcement.  Fines, regardless of whether or not you have had any leaks, can get real ugly real fast, and be more expensive than if you have a release.
  3. Don’t get lulled into complacency.  Big fines are not just for smoke stack industries anymore.  Consider the EPA’s enforcement action under the Clean Air Act against Safeway Grocery Stores…they were tagged with a settlement in excess of $4 million!
  4. Finally, don’t forget EPA’s recent “Criminal Enforcement Alert” directed at agriculture.

Are you up against a tough environmental regulatory issue now?  Are you facing unreasonable requests by regulators?  If you don’t think your current environmental consultants are acting in your best interest, we can help.  Ask senior environmental advisor Jeffrey Bolin, M.S., CHMM about a Peer Review.


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