Ohio farmers are talking about a U.S. EPA deadline coming on May 10. It’s the deadline for having a “Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures Plan” (SPCC) regarding oil – which by EPA definition appears to mean just about any liquid on the farm which is carbon-based or derived in part from oil.
Ohio Farmers Union Executive Director Linda Borton and Clinton County Farmers Union President Walt Streber have both attended recent OFU or Farm Bureau local meetings at which the EPA’s SPCC program was a major topic of conversation.
Streber, who farms several hundred acres in southwest Ohio, and Borton both say family farmers need to be aware of SPCC and how it affects their farming business. The issue is that if provisions of the program are applicable to your operation – and you’re not in compliance – your farm may be subject to a fine from the EPA.
What is SPCC?
According to the EPA, SPCC’s purpose is simply to prevent spills into “waters of the United States and adjoining shorelines.” The key part of the program is for farmers and other facilities to have oil spill prevention plans, which the agency believes will help prevent spills from happening and mitigate their damage should they occur.
Are You Operating a Farm Under SPCC?
If your land produces – or normally produces – $1,000 of agricultural products in a year, that’s considered a farm. Just meeting SPCC’s definition of a farm doesn’t necessarily mean your operation covered by SPCC.
Is Your Farm Covered SPCC Rule?
If your farm meets these criteria, you are affected by SPCC:
- Farm stores, transfers, uses, or consumes oil or oil products such as diesel fuel, gasoline, various oils (lube, adjuvant, hydraulic), vegetable oil or animal fats;
- AND farm stores more than 1,320 gallons in aboveground containers or more than 42,000 gallons in completely buried containers;
- AND farm “could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters” of the U.S. or adjoining shorelines – including lakes, rivers and streams.
Consider the first bullet and the third bullet. Just through “uses” and “consumes,” all farms would be covered. The third bullet quotes EPA directly – “reasonably be expected” – which is language subject to interpretation, meaning for all practical purposes (and caution) that all farms are covered. The second bullet is key: the limits on aboveground and buried storage. This is the heart of the matter for family farmers.
Borton cautions OFU members to simply be aware of whether or not they are storing more than 1,320 gallons of “oil” above ground. If your farm is indeed in this category, you need to create an SPCC plan.
Streber reports that with the May 10 deadline approaching there are businesses offering to create SPCC plans for farmers. Their pitch includes claims that farmers have to go to the extent of counting all of their five-gallon fuel cans and the like when tallying their aboveground storage – because the EPA inspectors will do so. One vendor in the Clinton County area is offering to do plans for farms for $3,000 per plan.
Here’s something to consider, however, from the source – the EPA. The SPCC Fact Sheet on the Web under a “Tips” sections tells farmers to only count containers that have a storage capacity of 55 gallons and above. Another tip is that non-adjacent parcels, either leased or owned, may be considered separate facilities under SPCC depending upon how they are operated.
Most family farmers affected by SPCC will be able to self-certify. This is done using the EPA’s template discussed above and linked below. If your farm has storage capacity of greater than 10,000 gallons or has had an oil spill in the past, you may need a plan that is certified by a Professional Engineer (PE) according to the EPA. If you believe but are unsure you may fall into that category, you can call the EPA’s Oil Information Center at 800-424-9346 or TDD 800-553-7672. This number may also be used for any other SPCC program or plan questions.
If you are going to self-certify you will need an inventory of the oil containers on your farm including contents and location. You will need to outline the preventive measures being taken to avoid spills. You will need descriptions of the steps you will take in the event of a spill and the measures you’ve taken to prevent oil from reaching water. You will also need a list of emergency contacts and first responders.
The U.S. EPA’s SPCC for Agriculture page has a great deal of information on this entire topic including templates and instructions for self-certifying. There are also great descriptive documents about the overall program and its main tenets. Here are a couple of key links: