NAWG joined a coalition this week in submitting comments related to the timing of regulation on farms under the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, suggesting a four-year delay in compliance deadlines for agricultural operations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed extending the compliance date by which farms must prepare and implement SPCC plans until November of 2011, which prompted the comments, and for which the coalition expressed appreciation.
Still, the groups took the opportunity to outline their extensive concerns about how the SPCC rule will affect farming operations and EPA’s ability to communicate effectively enough with farmers that they can legitimately be in compliance by next year.
Initially promulgated nearly 37 years ago, a final SPCC rule wasn’t enacted until Aug. 16, 2002. The rule made SPCC regulations applicable to any facility, including farms, with an aggregate above-ground oil storage capacity of 1,320 gallons in tanks of 55 gallons or greater.
In order to fully comply with SPCC rules, a facility must have, among other things, identified contractors who can help operators clean up an oil spill; provided overfill prevention devices such as a high-level alarm; and provided effective secondary containment measure such as a dike or double-walled tank.
Comments submitted by the coalition stressed a lack of understanding of the agricultural industry as the primary reason the SPCC compliance deadline should be extended.
While the coalition recognized the EPA has made efforts to adapt helpful changes, such as allowing facilities with storage between 1,320 and 10,000 gallons to self-certify, they reiterated that these thresholds are still too low for farm operations based on the very few spills that actually occur.
For instance, under the new rules any facility with more than 10,000 gallons in aggregate petroleum storage would be required to hire a professional engineer to inspect and certify SPCC plans, potentially a very costly procedure with little to no historical justification.
“[U]ntil evidence of agriculture-related spills can be produced, several facets of the final SPCC rule stand merely as baseless generalizations,” the groups said.
“To limit the size of fuel storage an agriculture producer may hold to 10,000 aggregate gallons, with the cost of a professional engineer as a deterrent, could be the death knell for many small or mid-sized operations already on the margin.”
The comments were submitted by the Agriculture Coalition on the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC), a group of organizations that represent farmers, ranchers, farmer cooperatives and related agribusinesses. This coalition has been active on SPCC issues for a number of years.
To read the full comments sent this week as well as previously-submitted comments, please visit www.wheatworld.org/environmentalissues.
A fact sheet with information for farmers about SPCC compliance is available at http://www.epa.gov/ceppo/web/docs/oil/spcc/spccfarms.pdf.