Can You Afford to Lose $37.5K a Day? Then Go Ahead and Ignore This Rule

Justin Christensen |

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Spring has finally arrived and your busiest time of year is just around the corner. Perhaps you’re in the midst of breeding, getting ready for new arrivals or cultivating the fields to plant crops. With a multitude of responsibilities, you probably have a well-balanced system of preparations and processes in place to ensure everything gets done and is well looked after.

It probably also means you have insurance. Have you remembered to include an SPCC Plan as part of your protection?

A Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan is designed to help farms prevent oil spills as well as control a spill should one occur. Here are some tips to help you create a solid plan:

  1. Calculating your oil storage capacity – Count only containers larger than 55 gallons. If you have more than 1,320 gallons above ground or 42,000 gallons below ground, you need an SPCC Plan.
  2. Including multiple parcels – If adjacent or non-adjacent parcels, whether leased or owned, are identified by the farmer as ‘separate’ based on how they are operated, the containers do not need to be added all together when determining the 1,320 gallon total for SPCC requirements.
  3. Completing the appropriate SPCC Plan – Tier II farms must create a full SPCC Plan, certified by a Professional Engineer (PE) and Tier I farms can use the shorter SPCC Plan Template. Farms with less than 10,000 gallons of total oil capacity may also be able to self-certify their plan, which varies from State to State, without having to file it with the EPA.
  1. Periodically review your plan – SPCC Plans should be reviewed at least once every five years and updated as changes occur.  Any amendments should be prepared and implemented within six months of changes being made.

The SPCC Plan is based on the SPCC Rule – to help facilities and farms to prevent a discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines – and is mandated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The extended compliance date for farmers was May 10, 2013. If you have yet to implement your plan, here are a few key things you should know.

FAQ: Who is responsible for holding and maintaining an SPCC Plan?

Owners and operators of a farm (or facility) are required to prepare and implement an SPCC Plan, which must be maintained at the farm that is normally attended at least 4 hours per day.

FAQ: If a farm is not meeting regulations and is checked by EPA or has a spill, is the retailer that filled the tank liable?

No. Owners and operators are responsible for lack of compliance.

There are a number of ways infractions can occur which result in fines for farmers. Some of the most common include:

  • No SPCC Plan
  • No proper certifications or records
  • No or grossly inadequate containment for oil storage tanks
  • Valve found open
  • Lack of proper maintenance and inspection of container structures
  • Container compatibility
  • No or inoperative overfill device
  • No transfer procedure

FAQ: What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Non-compliance can result in fines and penalties. Violations occur in the areas of: SPCC/FRP, Discharge, and Failure to Notify. Administrative fines can range from $16,000 per violation up to $16,000 per day to a maximum of $177,500. Judicial Enforcement Actions and Spill Penalties can be as high as $37,500 per day of violation and criminal penalties can also be applied if the situation is deemed negligent or knowing. 

Understanding regulations and meeting obligations can seem overwhelming. You can access more information through the EPA website or call the National Agriculture Center. And sometimes, it’s reassuring to meet with someone in person like your fuel distributor. Like you, they want what’s best for your farming business and the environment. Their team of knowledgeable experts will help keep your well-balanced system of operations … well balanced.