Tag Archives: SPCC

Is groundwater “navigable waters” under SPCC?

You have to prepared a SPCC plan if you have more than 1320 gallons in shell capacity AND the potential to impact navigable waters of the United States.

Many people ask the question” “Is groundwater included in the definition of navigable waters under the Spill Prevention Control Countermeasures regulation?”

The short answer is NO.

However, keep in mind that groundwater could act as a conduit for spilled oil to reach navigable waters of the U.S.

Here is what EPA stated in its SPCC Inspection Guide: Facilities should consider “certain underground features (e.g., power or cable lines, or groundwater), (that) could facilitate the transport of discharged oil off-site to navigable waters.”


New SPCC template for Tier 1 facilities

EPA has published an SPCC template for facilities that qualify as Tier I. These facilities do not need to get their SPCC plans certified by a Professional Engineer.

To meet the Tier I applicability criteria, the facility must have:

  1. a total aboveground oil storage capacity of 10,000 U.S. gallons or less;
  2. no aboveground oil storage containers with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons; and
  3. in the 3 years prior to the date the SPCC Plan is certified, had no single discharge of oil to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines exceeding 1,000 U.S. gallons, or no two discharges of oil to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines each exceeding 42 U.S. gallons within any 12-month period.*

*Please note: this does not include discharges that are the result of natural disasters, acts of war, or terrorism. When determining the applicability of this SPCC reporting requirement, the gallon amount(s) specified (either 1,000 or 42) refers to the amount of oil that actually reaches navigable waters or adjoining shorelines not the total amount of oil spilled. EPA considers the entire volume of the discharge to be oil for the purposes of these reporting requirements.

Counting oil in an SPCC Plan

Someone asked me the other day if he needed to count the fuel oil in his backup generator towards the 1320 storage threshold for preparing an SPCC.

My answer was yes – if the “oil capacity” in his generator is 55 gallons or more and he is the “owner and operator” of the generator. Note that in SPCC, the term “capacity” refers to the shell capacity – not the actual amount of oil in the container.

See tables below. They are taken from EPA’s Guidance for Regional SPCC Inspectors.

Why SPCC is not delegated to the states?

capitolAs we all know, many federal environmental programs are delegated to the state levels for implementation with oversight from EPA. Such is not the case with the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC).

When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it directed the President to develop a National Contingency Plan. Under Section 311(j)(1) of the Act, the President is directed to est”lish procedures, methods,a nd equipment and other requirements for equipment ot prevent discharge of oil and hazardous substances from vessels and from onshore facilities…”…..

The President is specifically authorized to delegate the administration of Section 311 of the Clean Water Act to “the heads of those Federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities which he determines to be appropriate”.  There is no mention of any authority to delegate to state agencies.

Some state governments have enacted state laws that require their industries to have spill prevention plans that are the same as those spelled out in the SPCC regulations. California is one of these states. So if an inspector from one of the California state regional water quality control boards finds that you don’t have a SPCC plan, the agency can cite you  for violating the state law – but not the federal law.

Only an EPA inspector can cite you for SPCC violations.

A reminder about SPCC

Here is a reminder that the Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasure (SPCC) plan is applicable to “owners and operators” of onshore and offshore facilities that exceed the threshold of 1320 gallons of oil. 40 CFR 112.3(a) is very clear on that. What that means is that if you are not the owner or operator of a unit that contains oil, you do not need to count that oil against the threshold.

transformer2For example, if you have transformer stations that hold hundreds of gallons of oil within your facility boundary and yet you have no operational control or ownership of the transformers (the local utility owns them), you do not have to count the transformer fluid.

The simple questions to ask are: “Do I have access to these tranformers?” , “Do I own them?” and “Am I responsible for making sure they work and maintaining them?” If the answer is no, you are neither the owner nor operator.

Many facilities make the mistake of including the oil in these transformers towards the 1320 threshold and end up preparing an SPCC when they don’t really need to.

Why don’t we wash our rental cars?

car wash pictureHave you ever wondered why we never wash our rental cars before we return them to the rental company?

Because we don’t own the rental cars!

The same goes with writing environmental plans. If the employees who are responsible for implementing the plan (SPCC, stormwater, RCRA contingency, etc.) have not been involved in the development and preparation of the plans in any way, they are not going to have ownership of the plans and they are not likely to implement them.

Remember: Many of these plans (especially SPCC) are perfromance-based. That means if they are not implemented as written, you can end up with a violation.

Get your employees involved in some fashion before you finalize your palns. Have them review the draft. Get them involved.

EPA did it again! another extension for SPCC.

alum-tanksOn April 1, 2009, EPA extended the deadline for SPCC (Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasures) to January 14, 201o.

Last week (June 11, 2009) EPA extended the deadline for SPCC again. The new deadline is now November 11, 2010. Click here for details.