EPA Proposes Year's Grace on Spill Prevention Rule--But Not for Offshore Drillers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to extend the compliance date by one year for certain facilities subject to recent amendments to the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule. The agency also is announcing that certain facilities will not be eligible for the one-year extension and will have to comply by the current date of Nov. 10, 2010.

Last year, EPA amended the SPCC rule to strengthen certain provisions. Regulated facilities are required to amend and implement these changes as part of their overall SPCC plans. The purpose of the SPCC rule, which was finalized in 1973, is to establish requirements for facilities to prevent a discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. EPA has no SPCC jurisdiction over drilling, production, or workover facilities seaward of the coastline.

The types of facilities not eligible for the proposed extension and that therefore must comply by Nov. 10, 2010, include drilling, production, or workover facilities that are offshore or that have an offshore component, or onshore facilities required to have and submit facility response plans (FRPs), due to the threats these facilities could pose of significant oil spills to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.

The types of facilities that may be eligible for the proposed one-year extension include oil production, farms, electric utility plants, petroleum refining and related industries, chemical manufacturing, food manufacturing, manufacturing facilities using and storing animal fats and vegetable oils, metal and other manufacturing, real estate rental and leasing, retail trade, contract construction, wholesale trade, other commercial, transportation, arts entertainment & recreation, other services (except public administration), petroleum bulk stations and terminals, education, hospitals & other health care, accommodation and food services, fuel oil dealers, gasoline stations, information finance and insurance, mining, warehousing and storage, religious organizations, military installations, and government facilities.

In summary, the proposed rule would:

  • Extend the date by which the owners or operators of certain facilities must prepare or amend and implement an SPCC plan by one year to Nov. 10, 2011
  • Delay the compliance date for facilities with milk containers that are constructed according to the current applicable 3-A sanitary standards, and subject to the current applicable grade “A” pasteurized milk ordinance (PMO) or a state dairy regulatory requirement equivalent to the current applicable PMO until one year after EPA finalizes a rule for these facilities.
  • Maintain the current November 10, 2010 compliance date for drilling, production and workover facilities that are offshore or that have an offshore component, and for onshore facilities required to have and submit FRPs
  • Reconcile the proposed compliance dates for new production facilities

The proposed amendments do not remove the regulatory requirement for owners or operators of facilities in operation before Aug. 16, 2002 (other than facilities with milk containers described above), to maintain and continue implementing an SPCC plan in accordance with the SPCC regulations then in effect. EPA is seeking comment on whether a shorter extension period (6 to 9 months) is warranted for facilities rather than the proposed one-year extension. In considering a shorter compliance extension period, the agency requests comments on the criteria to consider, such as discharge history, size and type of facility, potential risk posed, and ability to come into compliance.

The public has the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule during a 15-day period following its publication in the Federal Register. More information on the proposed rule is available at www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/index.htm.

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