As part of the proposed $8.6 billion Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2016 budget, the agency is allocating $18.5 million for the Oil Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response program. The program aims to protect U.S. environment by effectively preventing, preparing for, responding to, and monitoring oil spills.
According to the EPA’s Budget in Brief, the agency “will perform inspections of regulated high-risk oil facilities to better implement prevention approaches and to bring 60 percent of Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) and Facility Response Plan (FRP) inspected facilities found to be non-compliant during the FY 2010 through FY 2015 inspection cycle into compliance.”
Oil spills can threaten human health, cause severe environmental damage, and create financial loss to businesses and the public. According to the EPA, there are currently over 600,000 SPCC-regulated facilities under the EPA’s jurisdiction, including a subset of roughly 4,300 facilities subject to FRP requirements. Rather than be susceptible to fines, penalties, and negative publicity, companies that are required to comply with SPCC and FRP regulations should ensure response plans are up-to-date and effective. Evaluating company operations and each facility’s site-specific information will determine necessary elements for regulatory compliance and response plan requirements.
Compliance monitoring is comprised of all activities that determine whether regulated entities are in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, permit conditions, and settlement agreements. In coordination with these governances, the EPA’s Compliance Monitoring program’s goal is to determine whether conditions exist that may present imminent and substantial threat to public health or welfare of the United States.
The 2016 proposed budget enables the EPA to have a greater emphasis on emergency preparedness, particularly through the use of unannounced drills and exercises. It is imperative that facilities and responders can effectively implement established response plans according to regulations. In FY 2014, the EPA was able to bring 79% of FRP and 72% of SPCC facilities into compliance due to the development of improved guidance and procedures. The compliance program will continue to focus resources on bringing non-compliant facilities into compliance.
Source: EPA (Chart presents data as of end of FY2014. Data represent the percentage of facilities found initially compliant in a particular year and facilities previously found to not be in compliance that were brought into compliance out of the respective sets of facilities inspected. Therefore, the numbers do not total to 100 percent.)
Compliance monitoring activities include data collection, analysis, data quality review, on-site compliance inspections/evaluations, investigations, and reviews of facility records and reports.
The EPA ensures that the management and oversight of the compliance monitoring program is enhanced by the exchange of information from the FRP and SPCC data systems to the EPA’s Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS). This exchange provides the EPA the opportunity to focus compliance monitoring resources on areas of highest risk, and increase transparency to the public of this enforcement, and compliance data. In addition, submitting information into ICIS electronically improves data coverage and quality.
The ability to streamline the regulatory submission process is advantageous for both industry and regulatory agencies. As opposed to paper plans, web-based planning is extremely beneficial for organizations that are subject to multiple applicable regulatory requirements. A web-based planning system with a regulatory tracking element can eliminate redundancies across converging compliance requirements, which maximizes informational consistency and administrative productivity. Many companies have embraced the benefits of streamlined web-based preparedness programs because of cost efficiency, information accessibility, and the ability to verify compliance. By advancing submission practices and raising industry standards, the EPA embraces a higher level of accuracy, availability, and consistency.
As part of the 2016 budget, the EPA states it will finalize the development and begin implementation of the National Oil Database including identifying requirements for electronic submission of Facility Response Plans (FRP) in order to create reporting efficiencies for the agency, states, local government and industry. The ICIS and database will support a more comprehensive analysis and better management of the FRP and SPCC compliance programs.
Note: FRP facilities are currently required to submit their plans to the EPA Regional Offices, while SPCC facilities maintain their plans onsite.