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Corn+Soybean Digest

Oil Spill Regulation Affects Farmers

On Nov. 5, 2009, Lisa P. Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, signed a notice amending certain requirements of the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules that removes an exemption for farms. The new regulations require some farmers to prepare and implement a plan to deal with oil spills on their farms by Nov. 10, 2010.

"The EPA Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rules date back to the 1972 Clean Water Act, which sought to prevent oil spills from certain aboveground and underground storage tanks," says Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension Service water quality associate. "Now in its third revision and extension, current regulations affect farmers who store, transfer, use or consume oil or oil products, plus farmers who could reasonably be expected to discharge oil into waters of the U.S. or adjoining shorelines."

Not all farms are included in the new regulations. Farmers are subject to SPCC rules if they:

  • Have 1,320 gallons or more of oil product storage capacity aboveground.

  • Have a buried oil product storage capacity of greater than 42,000 gal.

The EPA classifies a farm as "a facility on a tract of land devoted to the production of crops or raising of animals, including fish, which produced and sold, or normally would have produced and sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during a year."

"Farmers with underground fuel storage tanks with a capacity of more than 1,100 gal. but less than 42,000 gal. are regulated separately under state and federal laws," says John Nowatzki, NDSU Extension agricultural machine systems specialist. "In North Dakota, the regulations dealing with these underground fuel tanks on farms are administered by the North Dakota Department of Health's Division of Waste Management."

Certain exemptions affect which farmers are subject to SPCC regulations. Exemptions from SPCC regulations include:

· Completely buried storage tanks subject to all the technical requirements of the underground storage tank regulations.

  • Containers with a storage capacity of less than 55 gal.

  • Wastewater treatment facilities.

  • Permanently closed containers.

  • Automotive power containers, such as fuel tanks on cars, trucks, tractors and other farm equipment.

"These exemptions affect many North Dakota farmers," Nowatzki says. "For example, the SPCC regulations do not impact large underground fuel tanks that already meet the requirements of the North Dakota Underground Storage Tank Program. The exemptions also mean that, when adding up their on-farm storage capacity, farmers don't have to count containers holding less than 55 gal. or any of the tanks on their vehicles, tractors or other farm equipment."

North Dakota farmers who store more than 1,320 gal. of oil and oil products aboveground likely are subject to the SPCC regulations and are required to implement a SPCC plan.

Farm SPCC plans must:

  • Mandate the use of suitable containers for oil product storage.

  • Identify contractors or other local personnel who can help clean up an oil spill.

  • Provide overfill prevention on oil storage containers including high-level alarms, audible vents or an established procedure to fill containers.

  • Provide a secondary containment for bulk storage containers, such as dikes or remote impoundments, able to hold the full capacity of the container plus possible rainfall.

  • Provide effective, general secondary containment to address the most likely discharge where you transfer oil to and from containers, such as sorbent materials, drip pans or curbing for these areas.

  • Periodically inspect and test pipes and containers.

Farmers must review their plan every five years to make sure it includes any changes in oil storage practices.

"Farmers who have an oil spill must activate their plans to prevent the spilled oil from reaching surface or ground water," Johnson says. "They also must implement spill cleanup and mitigation procedures outlined in their plan. If the spilled oil gets into waters or adjoining shorelines, farmers must notify the National Response Center by calling 800-424-8802."

If the amount of oil spilled in water is more than 42 gal. on two different occasions within a 12-month period or more than 1,000 gal. in a single spill event, then the farmer must notify the EPA regional office in writing at Environmental Protection Agency, 1595 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO 80202-1129.

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