Got Fuel Tanks? Got A Spill Prevention and Control Plan?

While the federal SPCC compliance date was May 10, EPA enforcement delayed to September for lack of funds by congressional mandate.

Published on: May 24, 2013

Let's take the bad news first. Despite major lobby efforts by farm organizations, farmers were required to have a written plan for preventing and controlling oils stored on the farm by May 10. That's according to the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule to be enforced by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The good news – if it's so – is that Congress put a block on EPA enforcement. Congress specified that no funds could be used to enforce the SPCC rule against farms during the current fiscal year – until after September 23.

As it stands, the SPCC rule still is in effect along with its mandated May 10 compliance date. So if your farm isn't exempt and you don't have a plan in place, you're in the grace period.

TANK TALK: Mandated changes for fuel storage are in effect, but enforcement comes later.
TANK TALK: Mandated changes for fuel storage are in effect, but enforcement comes later.

Are you exempt?

The SPCC rule, according to EPA covers all oil containers kept on the farm -- petroleum, animal fat, vegetable and fish oils, greases and synthetic and mineral oils. So there's no mistake, it also includes diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oils, hydraulic fluids, adjuvant oils and crop oils.

Exempted oil containers include home heating oil, pesticide application equipment and motor power oil containers. Farms storing less than 1,320 gallons in above ground containers or less than 42,000 gallons in buried tanks are exempt, and conversely so.

If you're not exempt and you're at risk of having even a drip finding its way into navigable waters of the United States, as defined by EPA, you're certain to be visited by EPA inspectors. You'll also be subject to civil penalties. You must have both a written SPCC plan, plus containment systems to prevent that risk and a written plan for how a spill will be cleaned up., says Steve Swaffar, interim government affairs director for Kansas Farm Bureau.

Double-walled solutions?

Farm shops often have 55-gallon drums of hydraulic fluid or oil on hand. “Now, you have to figure out how to have some kind of containment system in the shop,” notes Swaffar. “It’s expensive.”

The simplest solution, he adds, is double-walled tanks. But they're currently hard to find and the price has doubled in anticipation of the rule going into effect.

“If you're building new fuel storage, then a double-walled tank is an obvious solution,” he suggests. “Retrofitting is another thing altogether. Many pre-fab units available are way too large for the average farm user.”

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