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Do Your Trainers Know These 6 Things About SPCC?

At the 2013 National Institute for Storage Tank Management’s (NISTM) recent storage tank conference, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave a really detailed, 3-hour review of SPCC regulations and best practices. Here are some things I picked up that I bet you didn’t know about the SPCC.

1.  Emergency and  backup generators count toward your total aboveground oil storage capacity. Many facilities that aren’t true end users of oil might think they don’t have to worry about drafting an SPCC Plan, but if a facility has emergency and/or backup generators, the oil used to power those machines may be enough to trigger SPCC plan requirements.

Check out this Environmental Daily Advisor article to find out if your facility is required to have an SPCC plan.

2.  Congress defines oil, not the EPA. The EPA never wrote a formal definition of oil for SPCC regulations; they simply referred to Congress’ definition. “Oil” as defined by Congress includes petroleum as well as nonpetroleum oils. This means animal fats and vegetable oils are oils under SPCC regulations.

For a comprehensive list of  nonpetroleum oils that fall under this definition, see this Environmental Daily Advisor article.


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3.  Animal fats are SPCC-regulated oils, but not milk. Although milk is an animal fat, it is exempted by rule from SPCC regulations.

4.  Groundwater is “navigable water” under federal SPCC regulations. Just because your oil is not “reasonably expected” to spill directly into a lake, river, stream, etc., groundwater can connect to lakes, rivers, streams, etc. Therefore, it is included in the 2002 SPCC final rule preamble’s loose definition of a navigable water. The good news is that it is very rarely enforced by the EPA. Watch out, though, because states may have stricter regulations and may define “navigable water” more clearly. For example, Virginia regulations specifically call out groundwater in their definition of navigable waters for oil discharges.

5.  “Reasonable expectation” includes rain events.  A lot of facilities forget the effect rain could have on their oil’s ability to discharge to water. Just because there isn’t a reasonable expectation that oil could reach navigable waters during dry times doesn’t mean that can’t change when it rains. Be sure to think about rain events when making the determination of how a discharge could affect nearby waters.

6.  There are two types of “discharges” in SPCC regulations. 40 CFR 112.1(b) considers a “discharge” to be one that is harmful to public health and the environment as described in the oil spill regulations at 40 CFR 110. This type of discharge is a violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and must be reported to the National Response Center (NRC). It may also impact a facility’s ability to self-certify an SPCC Plan.

40 CFR 112.2 defines a “discharge” as any spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, or dumping any amount of oil no matter where it occurs.  This type of discharge is NOT a violation of the CWA and does not have to be reported to the NRC (although it may be a violation and a reportable event under state or local regulations).


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In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at the last 4 things trainers may not know about the SPCC—and we’ll explore a brand new online SPCC training library.