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Revised Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule


On July 17th, 2002, EPA issued a final rule amending the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation promulgated under the authority of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act). This rule addresses requirements for Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plans (SPCC Plans) and some provisions may also affect Facility Response Plans (FRPs). EPA proposed revisions to the SPCC rule on three occasions, in 1991, 1993, and 1997. The final SPCC rule addresses these revisions and became effective on August 16, 2002. EPA published a final rule on August 11, 2004 that extended the deadlines by which facilities must amend (or, for new facilities, prepare) and implement their SPCC Plans. The SPCC rule can be found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 112 (Oil Pollution Prevention)

Background of the Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation

The goal of the oil pollution prevention regulation in 40 CFR Part 112 is to prevent oil discharges from reaching navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. The rule was also written to ensure effective responses to oil discharges. The rule further specifies that proactive, and not passive, measures be used to respond to oil discharges. The oil pollution regulation contains two major types of requirements: prevention requirements (SPCC rule) and Facility Response Plan (FRP) requirements. The prevention requirements in sections 112.1 through 112.7 were first promulgated in the 1973 SPCC regulation. Required under the rule is an SPCC Plan that contains measures to prevent and control oil spills, including those resulting from human operational error or equipment failures.

Reasons for Final Changes

There were many reasons for the final changes. First, the final changes stem from the need to clarify the language and organization of the rule. The changes comply with the Presidential order requiring that all new rules or rule amendments be drafted in plain language. The changes reduce the information collection burden on the regulated community. The SPCC changes will reduce the regulatory burden by approximately 40 percent. The changes will eliminate duplicate regulation, exempt certain small facilities, exempt most wastewater treatment facilities, and require consideration of industry standards in prevention plans. The final rule also allows an owner or operator to substitute a required measure for another providing equivalent environmental protection, with the exception of secondary containment requirements. The number of facilities now regulated by the SPCC rule has been reduced by about 55,000 as a result of the changes.

General Applicability

The SPCC rule applies to owners or operators of facilities that drill, produce, gather, store, use, process, refine, transfer, distribute, or consume oil and oil products. The changes to the rule clarify applicability to owners or operators that use oil. The changes also allow for tracking the scope of the rule to conform with the expanded jurisdiction of the amended CWA. The broadened range includes waters of the contiguous zone and waters connected with activity under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act or Deepwater Port Act, as well as waters affecting certain natural resources of the United States.

Summary of the New SPCC Rule

The effect of the final SPCC rule is expected to be positive. The revised rule reduces the number of facilities regulated and the overall regulatory burden.

Highlights of Final Rule


Exempts completely buried storage tanks subject to all of the technical requirements of the UST regulations (40 CFR Parts 280 or 281);


Exempts portions of certain facilities or any facility used exclusively for wastewater treatment;


Establishes a de minimis container size of 55 gallons;


Establishes an aboveground storage capacity threshold of greater than 1,320 gallons and removes the 660 gallon threshold;


Revises the trigger for submitting information on spills at SPCC regulated facilities to EPA. Facilities are now required to submit information after having 2 discharges (over 42 gallons) in any 12-month period or a single discharge of more than 1,000 gallons;


Allows deviations from most rule provisions (with the exception of secondary containment requirements) when equivalent environmental protection is provided;


Provides for a flexible plan format, but requires a cross-reference showing that all regulatory requirements are met;


Clarifies rule applicability to the storage and operational use of oil.

Facility Response Plan Considerations

The revisions to the SPCC rule may affect whether you need to prepare and maintain a Facility Response Plan (FRP) or how you calculate worst case discharge planning levels. In some cases, your facility may not meet the storage capacity thresholds for the substantial harm criteria. In other cases, you must have an FRP, but you may be able to revise the calculations for worst case discharge planning levels. The definitions used in part 112.2 also clarify terms used in the FRP rule. According to the new rule, the regulation no longer applies to the following:


Completely buried tanks that are subject to all Underground Storage Tank technical requirements in 40 CFR parts 280 and 281;


Containers with a storage capacity of less than 55 gallons;


Portions of certain facilities or any facility used exclusively for wastewater treatment.

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