In 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule to establish procedures, methods, and equipment requirements to prevent oil discharges from non transportation-related facilities. Maintaining SPCC compliance requires preparing plans that outline spill prevention procedures, equipment to prevent spills from occurring, and countermeasures to address the effects of oil spills.
Despite the regulation, according to a February 2012 EPA report, approximately 55 percent of 3,700 facilities inspected from 2007-2012 were not in compliance with the SPCC guidelines. The EPA estimates that approximately 640,000 U.S. facilities are potentially subject to regulations under the SPCC Rule, yet less than 1 percent of the facilities have been inspected. The report highlights the difficulty in SPCC oversight due to lack of facility self identification requirements. Only SPCC facilities that are required to submit Facility Response Plans (FRP) are identified by the EPA.
EPA regions are continually discovering facilities that have been previously unknown as SPCC facilities. Recently in New Mexico, which is covered by EPA Region 6, 45 previously unknown SPCC-regulated oil and gas production facilities were identified while conducting inspections at other known facilities.
EPA regions have attempted to increase their knowledge of SPCC facilities by using state aboveground storage tank databases, industry databases such as Dun and Bradstreet, and other federal databases. However, the databases are separate and incompatible with EPA’s databases.
“Compiling a list of facilities that come under the SPCC Rule is complicated because limited or incomplete facility data lead to difficulties in determining the facility’s proximity to U.S. navigable waters, the type and capacity of product stored, and facility type (i.e., production or storage).”
While limited resources and staffing strain the EPA’s efforts to identify and inspect every SPCC relevant facility, responsible owners and operators need to be proactive in developing and sustaining accurate plans. Companies must have an SPCC Plan for each facility that has at least one 1,320-gallon aboveground storage tank and/or underground storage of at least 42,000 gallons, and be in such a location that a spill could reasonably be expected to discharge oil into navigable waters. These plans must be certified by a professional engineer . These rules apply regardless of whether the applicable tanks are full or nearly empty.
For more information about SPCC Plans, download TRP Corp's free SPCC and FRP Inspections guide.