SPCC plan is a performance-based regulation

Let me start the process by reminding everyone that the SPCC (Spill Prevention Control Countermeasure) program is a set of “performance-based” regulations. What that means is that your work has just started after you have completed writing your plan. You have to IMPLEMENT the plan as described. So it does you no good to have a nicely prepared plan sitting on your book shelf. Any thoughts? Comments?


10 responses to “SPCC plan is a performance-based regulation

  1. Many companies hire consultant to prepare environmental plans for them. These plans often include Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan, storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP), or RCRA Contingency Plans. The consultants always write up a beautiful and thick report and give it to their clients who then put the plan on the bookshelf and forget all about it until an inspector shows up asking for it.

    Does that sound familiar?

    If your consultant prepares a SPCC plan for you, make sure your senior management signs off on the SPCC certifying that it understands the resources required to implement the plan and it is prepared to commit such resources. It is a legal requirement that there is written “management approval at a level of authority to commit the necessary resources to fully implement the Plan”. Without such approval by way of a signature from management, the plan is “invalid” and the facility could be cited and possibly fined by US EPA. Note that enforcement of SPCC is a federal responsibility and is carried by EPA Regional Inspectors.

    The requirements of SPCC under the Clean Water Act consist of preparing a plan and implementing it. An EPA inspector will always look for evidence of implementation. If your SPCC plan calls for monthly inspection, the inspector would expect to see a completed monthly inspection checklist as evidence of your implementation of the plan.

    Here is a quote from EPA’s SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors (dated November 28, 2005): “In summary, the EPA inspector should verify that the owner or operator has inspection reports that document the implementation of the testing, evaluation, or inspection criteria set forth in the Plan.” You can download a copy of EPA’s SPCC Inspection Guide at http://www.epa.gov/oilspill/guidance.htm.

    It is also a legal requirement that plant personnel be trained on the SPCC plan in order for them to implement it. If your consultant includes in the plan a training schedule, the inspector would want to see a signed attendee’s list at a training session as evidence that you have actually implemented the plan.

    If there is personnel change since you last prepared your plan, you will need to revise the document to reflect that if the change materially affects your plan. For example, if you have a new plant manager, you need to change you SPCC plan to reflect that.

    Here are some practical tips and key point to remember on preparing environmental plans:

    1. If at all possible, try to prepare your environmental plans yourself. This is the best way to ensure you and your staff have ownership of the plans. There are numerous guidance documents on EPA’s website on how to prepare SPCC plans, SWPPP and RCRA contingency plans. These are the same documents your consultants use to prepare your plan.
    2. If you must use outside consultant to prepare your plans for you, do not allow the consultant to prepare the plans in total isolation without any input from you or your staff. At a minimum, make sure the consultant meets with whoever is going to be implementing the plan. That is the only way your plant personnel will have ownership of the plan. Without such ownership, nothing will happen and the plan will most likely not be implemented as written. Remember: we don’t wash our rental cars because we don’t own them.
    3. Remember that you no longer need a Professional Engineer’s certification in a SPCC plan if you do not have more than 10,000 gallons of oil on site. You can now do self certification under a new SPCC rule.
    4. Make sure that you are comfortable with the inspection and training schedules that your consultant puts in the plan. Why? Because you are going to be the one implementing it – not your consultant.
    5. Do not be overly ambitious in your plan. Only commit to what you can deliver. Words are cheap – it is easy to talk about what you plan to do because they are just words on a piece of paper. You want to make sure you can actually deliver it. The inspector will want to see if you keep your promise.
    6. Start putting a training program together as soon as your plan is written up. Set a schedule to do the training and make sure you document all your training efforts.
    7. As soon as you finish writing the plan, you must think about implementing it. Many people think that their work is done once a plan has been written by their consultants. In fact, their work has just started. Most of these plans – especially the SPCC and SWPPP – are made up of two parts: plan preparation and implementation of the plan. The only way you can demonstrate that you are actually implementing your plan is to show the EPA inspector copies of completed inspection checklists and training records.

    The main point to remember about most the environmental plans is that they are performance-based. In other words, after you have prepared the plans, you are expected to perform!

  2. Does your UST oil count when deterining if you can do self certification?

  3. Mike,

    40CFR112.3(g) refers to 10,000 gallons of aboveground oil storage as maximum threshold for self-certification.

    Hope this helps.


  4. Norman,
    In the certification determination process, we were told that the 10,000 gallon threshold is for any petroleum-based chemical and not for oil only. Is this correct?
    Thank you.

    • The 10,000 gallons threshold is for self-certification by the facility. No PE certification is needed if the aggregate aboveground “oil storage capacity” is below 10,000 gallons. Under SPCC, oil generally refers to any petroleum-based chemicals and another other kind of oil. Also note that SPCC refers to storage “capacity” – not the actually amount of oil onsite. So if you have a 12000-gallon tank with 3000 gallons of oil in it, you would NOT qualify for self-certification because the capacity is greater than 10,000 gallons. There are also other conditions the facility must meet before it can self-certify: The facility must not have had (1) a single discharge of oil to navigable waters exceeding 1,000 U.S. gallons or (2) two discharges of oil to navigable waters each exceeding 42 U.S. gallons within any twelve-month period, in the three years prior to the SPCC Plan certification date.

  5. What if the oil-filled transformer on the facility is not owned or operated by that facility (i.e. it is owned and operated by the utility company), does it still need to be included in the SPCC plan for that facility?

    • SPCC applies to the “owner or operator” of the equipment. If you neither own nor operate the transformer, you do not count the oil in that equipment. In your case, it is the utility’s problem.

  6. While I agree with the substance of your answer, note that the regulation specifies the requirements apply to the owner or operator of “the facility”. Equipment ownership and operation can be taken into consideration in defining the facility boundaries…as long as it is not done in order to avoid SPCC regulation (see for example EPA’s”SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors.) So when you do your plan, make sure to define the boundaries of the utility-owned and operated “facility” and specify carefully why it is not a part of your facility.

  7. Good point. Thank you for your post.

  8. Pingback: 2010 in review | Norman’s Environmental Blog

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