Oil Spill Planning Failures Cost 3 New England Firms $226,132

Three southern New England facilities that store more than a million gallons of oil each agreed to pay penalties for failing to take adequate precaution to prevent and contain oil spills.

Specifically, EPA alleges that the following oil storage facilities failed to adequately prepare and maintain Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure plans (commonly called “SPCC” plans) and/or Facility Response Plans (“FRPs”): DDLC Energy of New London, Conn.; Taylor Energy of Broad Brook, Conn.; and Northeast Products Co. Inc. of Fall River, Mass.

According to EPA, DDLC did develop both an SPCC and FRP plan, but said plans contained deficiencies. The company, located on the Thames River in Connecticut, was unable to adequately respond to simulated oil spill to the satisfaction of EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection during a surprise drill, EPA alleged. As a result, USCG issued an order prohibiting the facility from receiving barge shipments of oil and EPA filed a penalty action against the company. To settle the case, DDLC has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty. EPA noted that DDLC personnel worked cooperatively with the agency since the case was filed, correcting noted deficiencies and subsequently “passing” a second drill at the facility. The USCG order also was lifted following the company’s steps to address noted deficiencies, EPA said.

EPA alleged that Taylor Energy, meanwhile, failed to fully prepare, maintain, and implement an SPCC plan, as determined during an agency inspection. The company alone has the capacity to store more than one and a half million gallons of oil, but EPA said the facility’s FRP was outdated and had not been revised to reflect its current operating conditions. The agency added that the company failed to implement an adequate spill response training and drill/exercise program. To settle the case, Taylor Energy has agreed to pay a $70,000 penalty. EPA noted that Taylor personnel worked cooperatively with the agency and made significant investments to the facility to correct the noted deficiencies.

The Northeast Products facility in Massachusetts includes a commercial warehouse building used for the processing and packaging of lubrication oils and a bulk oil farm. EPA said that at the time of its inspection the company failed to develop an adequate FRP. More specifically, the plan failed to provide evidence of contracts or other approved means for ensuring availability of personnel and equipment in the event of a spill. In addition, there were no records of testing, inspection, or deployment of response equipment, the agency said. Also, the company failed to comply with certain notice requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. To settle this case, the company has paid an $81,132 penalty.

EPA noted that every year, thousands of gallons of oil are spilled from large and small oil storage facilities, polluting New England waters. SPCC plans and FRPs are critical to ensuring that such spills are prevented and, if they do occur, adequately addressed.

Federal law requires that facilities that have the potential for spills, like these companies, take every step possible to prevent, before they occur, oil discharges to the nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans through implementation of SPCC plans. Any facility with more than 1,320 gallons of aboveground oil storage capacity and meeting certain other criteria must develop and implement SPCC plans to prevent and contain spills, such as by installing impervious secondary containment around storage tanks and transfer areas.

EPA added that since accidents can and do happen, the law recognizes that it is equally important that facilities know how to minimize environmental damage when spills do occur, and therefore requires response planning and spill preparation especially for facilities with more than one million gallons of storage capacity, like these facilities. To ensure that a facility can adequately respond to a spill, it must have adequate employee training, spill response equipment, and a contingency plan for containing and cleaning up a release.

Oil storage facilities subject to the FRP rules must prepare and implement spill response plans for worst-case discharges from their facilities, which can be upward of tens of millions of gallons of oil. EPA says it will continue to pay unannounced visits to facilities throughout New England. For more information on SPCC and FRP requirements, go to www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/index.htm and www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/frps/index.htm, respectively.

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