Update, 5/9/2013: Amendment passed in Senate on 5/8/2013; WRDA bill continues to be debated.
As Senators on Tuesday considered the Water Resources Development Act, a bill to authorize waterway updates, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives said rolling an additional amendment into the Act would clarify regulations related to the Environmental Protection Agency's Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure.
"Inclusion of an amendment identical to S. 496 in WRDA will bring much needed clarity to agriculture on the confusing requirements of the SPCC rules," said Chuck Conner, NCFC president. "Throughout this long regulatory process, the EPA has failed to provide solid data, or even anecdotal evidence, of on-farm oil spills to justify such as resource-intensive rulemaking for America's farmers and ranchers."
NCFC said the amendment would exempt farmers from SPCC rules for above-ground oil storage tanks that have an aggregate storage capacity of less than 10,000 gallons. In addition to providing this exemption, it will also allow farmers who are regulated and have less than 42,000 gallons of above ground storage capacity to self-certify their own plans.
Currently, the SPCC rule mandates that farmers implement a written storage plan noting what oil or oil products are stored, what they are stored in, and what action will be taken in the event of a spill. Farmers must take action if they store more than 1,320 gallons of oil or oil products in above ground tanks or 42,000 gallons below ground, or are near a U.S. waterway or shoreline that could be impacted in the event of a spill.
Farmers may only self-certify their SPCC plan without the services of a professional engineer if they have fewer than 10,000 gallons of above-ground storage capacity and have had no spills to the waters of the U.S. in the past three years.
However, NCFC said the main beef with current rules is the volume thresholds.
"By providing realistic threshold sizes for tank regulation at the farm level, this amendment would allow farmers and ranchers to focus on running productive agricultural operations instead of on finding engineers and writing plans that address a problem that simply doesn't exist," Conner said.
The deadline for SPCC compliance on the current rule is May 10, however EPA is prevented from enforcing the SPCC rule on farms due to modifications in the program within the continuing resolution authorizing funding for government operations until Sept. 30, 2013.
Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., are sponsors of the amendement, which is identical to S. 496.
For more information on the SPCC rule and the continuing resolution, view related stories:
EPA Fuel Spill Plan: Farmers Face May 10 Deadline
What Does The Continuing Resolution Mean For Agriculture
EPA Administrator Nominee Fields Questions From Ag Interests
Fuel Regulations Are No Joke
President Signs Continuing Resolution
House Passes Continuing Resolution Funding FSIS Inspectors
Senate Continuing Resolution Offers Promise for Meat Inspectors
Senate Passes Funding Bill, But Sequester Burden Still Heavy