Farms with above-ground, oil/fuel storage exceeding 1,320 gallons have until Nov. 10, 2011 to develop and implement Environmental Protection Agency’s Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures, or SPCC plans. Producers with less than 1,320 gallons in aboveground storage are not subject to SPCC.

The Nov. 10 date might not be a hard deadline, as producers with more than 10,000 gallons of above-ground liquid storage capacity will be required to hire a professional engineer to prepare and certify plans, then those plans would have to be implemented. EPA has not formally announced an extension of the deadline, however.

Producers with less than 10,000 gallons of oil/fuel storage capacity, and who do not have a single tank with more than 5,000 gallons of storage capacity, are not required to hire a professional engineer to prepare their plan, and may self-certify. EPA estimates that 84 percent of farms subject to SPCC rules would qualify for self-certified SPCC plans.

To help producers meet the EPA criteria for the SPCC plans, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced a two-year pilot program to provide financial and technical assistance to producers with more than 10,000 gallons in oil/fuel storage capacity.

The pilot is being offered in Louisiana, Idaho, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, California, Texas, Utah and the Caribbean area. Assistance is available, to eligible producers, for development of the SPCC plan and implementation of the plan through the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

EQIP is technically a continuous signup program, but deadlines have been set to allow NRCS time to evaluate applications and for producers to sign contracts. The first deadline was Jan. 28, 2011. The next application deadline is June 3, 2011.

Producers interested in the initiative are encouraged to contact their local NRCS office. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/about/organization/regions.html#state  If the pilot is successful, it can be opened up to other states.

An integral component of the larger SPCC plan (more than 10,000 gallons) includes a secondary containment system for oil/fuel storage facilities. The structure might consist of a concrete structure surrounding a tank. It must be located aboveground.

Darren Hickman, national environmental engineer with NRCS, said that double-walled steel tanks are considered as secondary containment. “If they have an old fuel tank, they can update with a double-wall tank and they would meet the regulations. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a concrete structure.”

After a certified NRCS technical service provider reviews and develops an SPCC plan, the producer meets with NRCS to decide which recommendations in the plan he wishes to implement. “A contract is signed with NRCS which establishes the timeline of implementation,” said Andrea Clarke, an energy and climate change analyst with NRCS.

To assist producers who wish to implement elements of a SPCC plan, NRCS has also developed an interim conservation practice standard for certain types of secondary containment systems (practice 710) required to comply with the SPCC rule. Other practices offered in addition to this interim practice standard include conservation practice standards such as a dike, pond sealing or lining, flexible membrane, and waste storage facility.

The total maximum EQIP payment rate for the SPCC CAP is $2,500 and the maximum payment rate for the implementation of practice 710 may not exceed  $10,000 per facility, which would apply toward an individual producer’s EQIP payment limitation of $300,000.NRCS will pay up to 75 percent of the established payment rates.

Producers with less than 10,000 gallons in aboveground storage may use the “self certification” template provided by EPA available at http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/tier1temp.htm. You can also find useful information and a template available from the National Milk Producers Federation at: http://nmpf.org/files/file/SPCC-Plan-Template-Final-Sept-20-2010-FORM.pdf.

“A producer can download the template, fill it out and keep it at their farm headquarters and meet the regulation,” Hickman said. “They don’t have to submit that plan. But if somebody asks for it, they have to have it.”

SPCC now applies to farms which meet all three of these criteria.

  1. Stores, transfers, uses, or consumes oil or oil products, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, crop oil, vegetable oil or animal fat.
  2. Stores more than 1,320 U.S. gallons in aboveground containers or more than 42,000 U.S. gallons in completely buried containers.
  3. Could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines, such as interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers or streams.

For more information on SPCC plans, see http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/docs/oil/spcc/spccfarms.pdf.

The SPCC rule is part of the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation originally authorized in 1973 under the Clean Water Act. In December 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency removed a provision in the SPCC rule that had excluded farms from spill containment requirements. The changes became effective Jan. 14, 2010.

For a list of frequently asked questions, see http://www.epa.gov/region5oil/plan/spcc.html#what2