Ag Policy Blog
Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

Thursday 08/22/13

EPA may Enforce Spill Rule Retroactively

U.S. Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., are concerned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is going to implement the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures, or SPCC, rules retroactively despite Congressional efforts to exempt farmers, in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Thursday.

Implementing the rule retroactively could mean that farmers not in compliance prior to Sept. 23 could be subject to fines and penalties.

U.S. farmers dodged a bullet temporarily when the EPA agreed to delay by two years the implementation of the rules that require farmers to have proper spill prevention measures in place.

In the letter to McCarthy the senators said "Congress has repeatedly raised concerns about the implementation of this rule within the agriculture sector, making these reports particularly unsettling."

McCarthy made waves last week when she spoke positively about agriculture in a speech at the Iowa State Fair, saying she would strengthen EPA's relationship with agriculture during her term.

Sens. Inhofe and Pryor wrote in the letter, however, that although EPA was asked by Congress to conduct extensive outreach to farmers to explain how they can comply with the SPCC rules, the agency didn't do that.

"EPA agreed to extend the compliance deadline to May 10, 2013, but in the preceding months the agency did not conduct effective outreach," the letter said.

"In addition to holding only a handful of nationwide outreach meetings, the EPA rejected the request of one growers association in New England to provide a briefing on how its members could comply with the rule.

"When it became clear EPA would be unable to adequately educate farmers about the rule prior to the May 10, 2013 compliance deadline, the Senate adopted Amendment 29 to H.R. 933, the FY2013 Continuing Resolution appropriations bill, which was ultimately signed into law."

That amendment prohibited EPA from enforcing the rule against farmers until Sept. 23. The U.S. House of Representatives has drafted similar legislation it has not yet passed.

"Congress has clearly established its intent to limit the impact of the SPCC rule on the agriculture sector, and to ultimately exempt the majority of it from having to comply. With this Congressional intent in mind, we ask whether the EPA would retroactively enforce this rule against the nation's agriculture producers?," the letter said.

An EPA fact sheet titled "Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Program: Information for Farmers," says those farms that need a plan in place include those that store more than 1,320 gallons of oil products (diesel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, crop oil, vegetable oil or animal fat) in above-ground containers or more than 42,000 gallons in completely buried containers and "could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to any water source."

Only individual containers of oil that have a storage capacity of 55 gallons and more will be counted. Farmers who store fuel in adjacent or non-adjacent parcels, leased or owned, may be considered separate facilities for SPCC, which is not counted against the total gallons stored.

If you do have more than 1,320-gallon storage above ground or more than 42,000-gallon storage underground, the EPA will require you to prepare and implement an SPCC plan.

If your farm has an oil storage capacity between 1,320 and 10,000 gallons in above-ground containers and has a good spill history, you may prepare and self-certify your own spill plan. If your farm has storage of more than 10,000 gallons or has had an oil spill, you will need a SPCC plan prepared by a professional engineer.

Read the letter to McCarthy here, http://www.inhofe.senate.gov/…

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN.

Posted at 11:29AM CDT 08/22/13 by Todd Neeley
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