Who is covered by the SPCC Oil Spill Regulations?
Any facility meeting the three criteria (a non-transportation related facility with sufficient storage capacity which could discharge oil to navigable waters) must comply with the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure regulations. Any facility with an aboveground aggregate storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons of oil without secondary containment must meet SPCC regulations.
Some regulated facilites:
- Industrial, commercial, or public facilities that use, store, produce, gather, process, refine, or consume oil or oil products
- Waste treatment facilities
- Highway vehicles and railroad cars used to transport oil within the confines of a non-transportation related facility
- Loading areas/racks, transfer hoses, loading arms and other equipment that are part of a non-transportation related facility.
What is “Oil storage capacity?”
A determination is based upon the geographical and locational aspects of the facility in relation to its proximity to streams, pond, ditches (perennial or intermittent), storm or sanitary sewers, and wetlands.
The distance to navigable waters, volume of material stored, weather conditions, drainage, and soil type must be taken into account. The determination shall not consider manmade structures such as dikes, berms, or other features that may restrain, hinder, contain, or prevent an oil discharge.
Who prepares the SPCC Plan?
Any authorized environmental consultant, engineer, or scientist may write a facility’s SPCC plan. However, the Plan must be prepared in accordance with standard engineering practices and certified by a Professional Engineer.
What do I have to do to comply?
The regulations require owner/operators to prepare a plan for their facility within six months of becoming operational and to implement the plan within twelve months of the start of the operations.
In July 2002, EPA amended the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation, often referred to as the “SPCC rule.” The rule describes the requirements for facilities to prepare, amend, and implement an SPCC Plan. These plans are the foundation of EPA’s strategy to prevent or contain oil spills, requiring facilities to put in place countermeasures which will prevent oil spills from reaching the nation’s waterways. Under the law, facilities must implement specific spill prevention and control measures.
Every SPCC Plan has certain basic requirements while, at the same time, each plan must be tailored to the facility it serves. As part of its enforcement program, EPA conducts unscheduled on-site inspections. Any facility that has had two or more discharges over 42 gallons in any 12-month period or a single discharge of more than 1,000 gallons will be subject to closer scrutiny and more stringent reporting requirements.
SPCC plans must be certified by a professional engineer and signed by a person with the authority to implement the Plan and take responsibility for its success or failure. The Plan must address these three areas:
- Operating procedures that prevent oil spills
- Control measures installed to prevent a spill from reaching navigable waters
- Countermeasures to contain, clean up, and mitigate the effects of an oil spill that reaches navigable waters
The SPCC plan must include certain standard elements, including:
- A description of the physical layout and a facility diagram
- Contact list and phone numbers for the facility response coordinator, National Response Center, cleanup contractors, and all appropriate federal, state, and local agencies who must be contacted in case of a discharge.
- A prediction of the direction, rate of flow, and total quantity of oil that could be discharged where experience indicates a potential for equipment failure
- A description of containment and/or diversionary structures or equipment to prevent discharged oil from reaching navigable waters. (For on-shore facilities, one of the following must be sued at a minimum: dikes, berms, or retaining walls; culverting, gutters, or other drainage systems; weirs, booms, or other barriers; spill diversion ponds; retention ponds; sorbent materials.)
- Where appropriate, a demonstration that containment and/or diversionary structures or equipment are not practical; periodic integrity and leak testing of bulk containers and associated valves and piping; oil spill contingency plan; and a written commitment of manpower, equipment, and materials to quickly control and remove spilled oil.
- A complete discussion of the plan applicable to the facility and/or its operations.
The inspection is the first step of several steps in the enforcement process. If violations are noted during an inspection, the TCEQ may give the respondent a verbal notice to correct all violations within 14 days, send a notice of violation (NOV) alleging violations found and request the submittal of a compliance schedule to resolve the violations or begin formal enforcement if the violations have not been resolved through an NOV or are significant.
Formal enforcement will usually result in a TCEQ order to correct the violations and pay administrative penalties. This process may include a hearing and frequently involves attorneys for both parties.
EPA may assess criminal, judicial, or administrative penalties against oil or hazardous substance dischargers as well as facility owners/operators who fail to comply with the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation. Depending on the jurisdiction, the new system allows for penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, $10,000 per day, or up to $1,000 per barrel of oil spilled, $100,000 per violation, $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a corporation, and a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.