Spill Prevention, Control & Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans

What Are They, Who Needs One, And By When

This issue of HETI Horizons provides an overview of the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule – including its applicability, requirements and implications. It is a federal regulation that impacts more than 400,000 facilities of all types nationwide, and there are potentially serious consequences, fines and penalties for noncompliance. Affected facilities were required to implement the SPCC Rule by November 10, 2011, but a high percentage of them remain unaware of requirements under the Rule and the risk exposures of being non-compliant.

It should be noted that this overview is not all-inclusive and does not cover state and local requirements that may impose additional or differing requirements to those in the federal SPCC Rule. Additionally, there are a number of other federal, state, and local codes and regulations that also apply to facilities subject to the SPCC Rule.

The SPCC Rule

An Oil Pollution Prevention (OPP) Rule was promulgated in January 1974 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the purpose of preventing oil discharges into or upon navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. It is currently covered in the Clean Water Act in Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, in Part 112.

The OPP Rule was amended in July 2002 to require applicable facilities to prepare and implement a SPCC Plan designed to prevent and control oil spills. Applicable facilities were identified as those that store oil or oil products in aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) having a cumulative capacity of 1,320 gallons or more or in completely buried underground storage tanks (USTs) having a capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. The determination of whether a facility could “reasonably discharge oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines” was specified to be based upon considerations of site-specific factors such as bulk containment type, volumes stored, topography, drainage patterns, soil conditions, and proximity to streams, ponds, storm or sanitary sewers, wetlands, navigable waters and the like.

SPCC Plan Requirements

The SPCC Plan mandated for applicable facilities is generally a document describing a facility’s compliance with the SPCC Rule, and it is required to include details, procedures, and steps that will prevent, control and provide adequate countermeasures in the event of an oil release.

The SPCC Rule, under Section 40 CFR 112.7, delineates specific administrative, procedural, and technical information that must be included an SPCC Plan.

Some of the more important, required SPCC Plan elements include:

  • Facility description – including a detailed site plan
  • Oil storage description for all bulk storage containers and contents
  • Spill containment measures – including secondary containment and diversionary structures
  • Discharge predictions – including estimated, worst-case rates, quantities and flow directions
  • Spill response plans – including containment, control and cleanup procedures
  • Contact list for key employees, management staff and emergency response contractors
  • Personnel training, both initial & annual, covering O&M practices and response procedures
  • Facility inspection procedures
  • Facility security measures, such as fencing, lighting & access control
  • Management approval with a commitment of resources
  • Certification by a Professional Engineer or self-certification (if allowed)
  • Periodic Plan review with certified Plan amendments as needed

Latest Amendments to the SPCC Rule

The SPCC Rule was last amended in November 2009 under which compliance requirements were streamlined for those facilities having a “smaller oil storage capacity.” Such facilities, identified as “Qualified Facilities,” were defined as those having an aggregate AST oil storage capacity of not more than 10,000 gallons and with no oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 gallons.

Tier I Qualified Facilities were categorized as those having no individual aboveground oil containers greater than 5,000 gallons, and such facilities were allowed to prepare a self-certified SPCC Plan using an EPA   template in lieu of a full SPCC Plan. All other Qualified Facilities were categorized as Tier II, and such facilities were given the option of self-certifying their SPCC Plan rather than using a Professional Engineer for review and certification.

Enforcement, Fines & Penalties for Non-Compliance

The November 2009 amendments to the SPCC Rule became effective on January 14, 2010, and they specified that SPCC Plans must be prepared, or updated, or revised for all affected facilities by no later than November 10, 2011. They also specified that affected facilities becoming operational after November 10, 2011, are required to prepare and implement an SPCC Plan within six months after beginning operations.

The EPA periodically performs on-site inspections to assure compliance with SPCC Plan regulations. Such inspections may be announced in advance; but the SPCC Rule authorizes EPA Inspectors to enter any facility and conduct unannounced inspections at any time during normal business hours.

The EPA will levy a fine for each item found to be in non-compliance during an enforcement inspection. Since SPCC Plans are enforced under authority of the Federal Clean Water Act, under federal rule the EPA is authorized to seek penalties in court of up to $37,500 per day for any violation of the Rule, and fines could be as high as $250,000 for an individual and up to $500,000 for an organization, plus up to 15 years of prison, for failing to notify the appropriate  federal agency of a discharge. Additionally, even though the SPCC Rule is implemented at the federal level, states and localities may also have oil programs through which they may impose additional penalties for responsible parties.

Fines are normally assessed in proportion to the size of the facility and in accordance with the types and extent of the violations found. A recent study reported that the EPA conducted unannounced inspections at 93 separate facilities during the first half of 2013 with more than 500 distinct violations cited ranging from lack of an SPCC Plan to inadequate training and poor record keeping. Fines administered by the EPA for SPCC Plan violations have reportedly ranged from as low as $500 to as much as $200,000.

The bottom line is that the preparation and implementation of an SPCC Plan is the responsibility of the facility owner or operator, and it is the owner or operator who is responsible for compliance.

Consider HETI

Hydro-Environmental Technologies, Inc. (HETI) has a strong track-record of providing first-class, highly professional, environmental and regulatory compliance and risk management services. We specialize in  regulatory compliance issues, and have developed SPCC Plans for numerous facilities nationwide.  Additionally, we are intimately familiar with all the most recent requirements, exemptions, and agency guidance, thereby enabling us to efficiently develop SPCC Plans that meet all state and federal requirements while minimizing ongoing compliance burdens on facility’s ownership and operators.

The SPCC Rule and SPCC Plan requirements are complex and require detailed attention. Our staff of        exceptionally well-qualified and experienced professionals can provide invaluable technical support and an SPCC Plan that meets specific needs in conformity with all applicable regulatory requirements.