In June President Obama signed into law the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (H.R. 3080) which included SPCC exemption language for farmers.
The SPCC language will increase threshold sizes for Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) regulation at the farm level, and allow more farms to self-certify spill plans compared to current EPA SPCC Regulations. Specifically the language will:
- Exempt all farm tanks of 1,000 gallons or less from the SPCC rule, and farms with an aggregate tank storage capacity of 2,500 gallons or less would not have to comply with EPA’s SPCC rule.
- Increase the farm exemption threshold with up to 6,000 gallons aggregate of aboveground oil storage pending the completion of a study looking at a permanent exemption for farms with 2,500 to 6,000 gallons.
- Permit farms to self-certify their spill prevention plans if their aggregate aboveground oil storage is between 6,000 and 20,000 gallons with no individual tank greater than 10,000 gallons and no history of oil spills. Self-certify no single tank above 10,000.
- Require a professional engineer to certify the plan if the farm has an individual storage tank greater than 10,000 gallons, an aggregate aboveground oil storage greater than or equal to 20,000 gallons, or a reportable oil discharge history.
The SPCC language in WRDA takes effect immediately, however, within 1 year of enactment, the EPA administrator is required to conduct a study on the appropriate exemption level of not less than 2,500 and not more than 6,000 gallons. Not later than 18 months after enactment, the EPA will adjust the exemption level accordingly. Even though the exemption level is now at 6,000 gallons, farmers should be careful and ensure that they are SPCC compliant up to 6,000 gallons in case they have a major spill. The language is directing the administrator to implement changes to federal regulations and the only way the Administrator can do this is through a rulemaking. Therefore adding to the actual technical date. EPA will implement these changes by issuing a direct final rule, which is an accelerated process with no proposed rule or public comment period. It will take some time for the EPA to issue a direct final rule implementing the SPCC mandates in the WRDA. In the meantime, it is likely that the EPA will issue a non-enforcement directive for existing SPCC regulations as they apply to farms. The time periods for the study and “adjustment” tolls from the date of enactment.