THE goal of the Environmental Protection Agency's Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) rule is to prevent oil spills into waters of the U.S. and adjoining shorelines. SPCC plans can help farmers prevent oil spills, which can damage water resources needed for farming.
EPA recognizes that many farmers and ranchers continue to have questions about whether they will be affected and what they can do to be in compliance.
If your farm began operations after Aug. 16, 2002, you must prepare and implement an SPCC plan that meets all of the SPCC requirements no later than May 10. If your farm was in operation before Aug. 16, 2002, and you do not already have a plan, you need to prepare a plan that meets all of the SPCC requirements and implement the plan as soon as possible.
* "Does this SPCC rule affect my farm?" If you do not store more than 1,320 gal. of oil or oil products on your farm in aboveground containers or 42,000 gal. in completely buried containers, you are not subject to the SPCC rules.
The rule considers the storage at a facility on a tract of land. For most farms in the Midwest, there are multiple tracts of land. Facilities "farms" that potentially are subject to SPCC requirements can be subdivided by property, parcel and lease. If those individual areas don't exceed the threshold requirements, then the individual areas are not subject to SPCC regulation.
We have heard that farmers are concerned that we will force compliance by not allowing local cooperatives to deliver fuel unless the farm has an SPCC plan in place. EPA has no idea where farmers purchase their fuel and cannot enforce in that way. However, a typical enforcement would probably follow a spill if EPA discovered that the facility did not have an SPCC plan in place or the plan was not being followed.
* "Can I self-certify my own plan?" If your farm has a total oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gal. and less than 10,000 gal. in aboveground containers plus a good spill history (as described in the SPCC rule), you may prepare and self-certify your own plan.
If your farm has storage capacity of more than 10,000 gal. or has had an oil spill, you may need to prepare an SPCC plan certified by a professional engineer.
If you are eligible to self-certify your plan and no aboveground container at your farm is greater than 5,000 gal. in capacity, then you may use the plan template that is available from EPA's website at www.epa.gov/oem/content/spcc/tier1temp.htm.
Currently, EPA is prevented from enforcing the SPCC rule on farms due to modifications to the program under the continuing resolution authorizing funding for government operations until Sept. 30.
Further information is available at www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/index.htm.
*Karl Brooks is Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 Administrator for Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and nine tribal nations.