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March 15, 2013
Lawmakers push for SPCC farm exemption

U.S. farmers are pinning their hopes on legislation that would exempt most agricultural facilities from upcoming regulations subjecting them to Clean Water Act Spill, Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations. 

In October 2011, the EPA delayed the date by which farms must prepare or amend and implement their SPCC plans to May 10, 2013.  The SPCC requirements apply to farms that:

  • Store, transfer, use, or consume oil or oil products, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, crop oil, vegetable oil, or animal fat; and
  • Store more than 1,320 U.S. gallons (gal) in total of all aboveground containers (only count containers with 55 gal or greater storage capacity) or more than 42,000 gal in completely buried containers; and
  • Could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines, such as lakes, rivers, and streams.

FUELS Act

In August 2012, the House approved the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, which would have modified the SPCC regulations.  Under the bill, farms would not be required to prepare an SPCC plan if their aboveground storage capacity is less than 42,000 gal and the capacity of no single container exceeds 10,000 gal. 

Farms that did not qualify for the exemption would need to have their SPCC plans certified by a professional engineer if the EPA determined that their history includes a spill.  For farms with an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 10,000 gal and less than 42,000, the owner or operator of the farm would be allowed to self-certify the SPCC plan provided the EPA found that there was no spill in the farm’s history.  Calculation of a farm’s aggregate aboveground capacity would exclude all containers on separate parcels that have a capacity of less than 1,320 gal.  The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, but did not clear the Senate. 

$3.36 billion in savings

In January 2013, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AK) reintroduced the FUELS Act (H.R. 311), noting a University of Arkansas study that found passage would result in a $3.36 billion savings nationwide.  On March 8, Oklahoma’s Republican Senator James Inhofe introduced the Senate version of the FUELS Act.

“Forcing farmers to comply with oil spill regulations that were designed for refineries does not make any sense, making this bill absolutely necessary,” said Inhofe.  “This [bill] will exempt the vast majority of farmers from having to fill out volumes of paperwork, spend significant sums to buy new storage equipment, and protect them from the aggressive enforcement actions of the EPA.”

Arkansas’ Mark Pryor is the only Democrat among the six senators co-sponsoring the Inhofe bill.

H.R. 311 is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php

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