Senate panel approves oil spill amendment

Amendment would revise the EPA Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule for farms and ranches.

Sen. Pryor’s (D-Ark.) amendment 801 to the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA) was accepted by unanimous consent in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. Sens. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Fischer (R-Neb.), Landrieu (D-La.), Johanns (R-Neb.) and King (I-Maine) cosponsored the amendment that would revise the EPA Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) rule for farms and ranches.

The amendment increases the exemption level from 1,320 gallons to 2,500 gallons of aboveground storage capacity of containers greater than 1,000 gallons. The amendment also creates a temporary 6,000 gallon aggregate aboveground oil storage exemption threshold for farms of up to 30 months pending the completion of a joint EPA and USDA study to set a permanent exemption threshold for farms between 2,500 and 6,000 gallons based on what constitutes a significant risk of discharge to water and a subsequent rulemaking by EPA.

In addition, the amendment permits farms to self-certify their spill prevention plans if their aggregate aboveground oil storage is above the exemption level and less than 20,000 gallons. A professional engineer must certify the plan if the farm has an individual storage tank greater than 10,000 gallons, an aggregate aboveground oil storage greater than or equal to 20,000 gallons, or a reportable oil discharge history.

The WRDA still must be approved by the full Senate and then pass the House before it goes to the President for signature.

Sens. Pryor and Inhofe worked hard to obtain these concessions from Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.). Although they are not all that the agriculture community had hoped for, there will be further opportunities to improve the rule in the House.

Producers are reminded that this is only the first step in a process to modify existing SPCC regulations. While numerous deadline extensions have been seen in the past, the current compliance date is May 10, 2013, by which owners/operators of a regulated farm or facility must have a SPCC Plan.

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