In a major victory for the U.S. rice industry, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose to extend the date by which farms must prepare or amend their Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, to May 10, 2013. If no adverse comments are received, EPA will not take further action on this proposed rule and it will become final at the close of the 15 day comment period. The Direct Final Rule extending the deadline will be published in the Federal Register later this week.
According to an EPA spokesperson, "An overwhelming segment of the continental United States was affected by flooding during the spring and summer of 2011. Other areas were impacted by devastating fires. Many counties in many states were declared disaster areas by either the federal or state government or both. As a result, EPA believes that because of their unique nature, farms have been disproportionately affected and need additional time to prepare and implement a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan."
The USA Rice Federation's Environmental Regulatory Subcommittee has been working diligently since the rule was announced last November to have the agency extend the deadline. USA Rice Environmental Regulatory Subcommittee Chairman Ray Vester met with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss the negative impacts of the natural disasters to rice country and their impacts on rule compliance. Coupled with a lack of compliance assistance, Chairman Vester predicted low compliance by the original November 2011 deadline. The subcommittee continuously worked to accumulate various datasets to show EPA that the rule was virtually unknown in the agricultural community and would result in low compliance. EPA credited the rice industry with providing justification for extending the rule.
The amendment does not relieve farms from the liability of any spills that occur while there is not an SPCC Plan in place.