Oil storage rules changing again (or are they?)

Even though we are typically in close agreement on most parenting strategies when it comes to our two young children, differences in the details of the rules my wife and I set from day to day are not uncommon.

“Brush your teeth…”

“But Mommy said we could read a book first and THEN brush our teeth…”

“No ice cream tonight after dinner…”

“But Daddy promised we could have ice cream with chocolate if we ate all of our food…”

While neither of us would argue that the other is wrong about the proper order of book reading and tooth brushing, it can be a bit confusing when different rules from different parties are being issued. Timelines can change and details may differ but when in doubt, I strongly advise my children to “do what Mommy says.”

I feel like farmers are experiencing a similarly confusing situation with the wishy-washy details and timelines of the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We have covered the SPCC rule changes for several years now, and every time a story is written on the subject when it looks like the final rules are in place, the final rules and timeline change shortly after. Though it has been confusing as to who needs to do what and by when, it is better to play it safe than sorry when dealing with the potential for fines and so forth. Good luck and, when in doubt, I think most farmers out there know what to do in spite of all of the confusion.

Here is an overview of the current situation from OSU Extension educator Amanda Douridas.

 

The SPCC rule under the EPA has taken a few turns and is still being discussed for changes. Some oil companies in Ohio have contacted farmers saying they will no longer carry insurance or own tanks on farm property due to the liability from the SPCC rule.

The original rule stated farms with 1,320 gallons above ground storage or 42,000 gallons below ground storage of oil or oil products must have a secondary containment system and a written prevention plan. As the rule stands, all farms must have implemented this by May 10, 2013. On April 30, 2013, the enforcement date was pushed back to September 26, 2013.

On March 11, 2014, H.R. 311 was passed by the House of Representatives and is now going through the Senate Committee process. This rule bumps the minimum storage requirement up to: (1) a single tank with a capacity greater than 10,000 gallons, an aggregate above ground storage of 42,000 gallons or any farm that has had a spill previously or (2) any farm operator, via self-certification, with no history of spills and with an aggregate above ground storage capacity between 10,000 and 42,000 gallons. Containers less than 1,320 gallons on separate parcels of land are excluded from the aggregate storage capacity. So the bottom line is, if the rule is passed, any farm with 10,000 gallons or less aboveground aggregate storage capacity (and no history of spills) will be exempt.

According to Peggy Kirk Hall, OSU Extension Field Specialist in Agricultural and Resource Law, the EPA can enforce the SPCC rule back to May 10, 2013 but has been directed by Congressional leaders not to do so. If a farm is not yet in compliance with the original rule, keep in mind that if HR 311 does not pass, those not in compliance could be subject to penalties that may extend back to the May 10, 2013 deadline.

Information on the SPCC rule can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/spcc_ag.htm#spcc.

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