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How EPA Regulates Farm Spills

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EPA equates an agriculturally related spill of pesticides, fertilizers, fuel, coolants and oil-petroleum-based products as a major problem on farms and ranches. Farms and ranches, according to EPA, have substantial problems with the prevention and control of oil spills.

EPA claims “Farms and ranches constitute a sizeable portion of the SPCC-regulated universe…” You probably don’t even know what SPPC stands for, and you are not alone. SPCC stands for Spill Prevention Control and Counter measures. In EPA’s never-ending quest to regulate all activities on our farms and ranches, another rule has been promulgated to deal with spill problems on our farms and ranches.
For purposes of the SPCC rule, EPA defines a farm as a “facility on a tract of land devoted to the production of crops or raising of animals, including fish, which produced and sold, or normally would have produced or sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products during a year.”

This would have you believe every farm in the United States is subject to the jurisdiction of EPA.

The fine print tells a different story which may be causing some confusion. EPA would have you believe that if you have a total above ground fuel storage capacity of more than 1,320 gallons or an above ground fuels storage capacity of more than 660 gallons in a single container, you are subject to EPA’s SPCC requirements of 40 CFR 112.1 through 112.7.

EPA is concerned that agricultural facilities are installing very large single compartment above ground tanks to store diesel fuels for heavy equipment such as tractors, combines and farm trucks. EPA seems to be concerned that large quantity tanks are popular with producers because there is a cost savings if fuel is bought in bulk. As EPA says, “These large tanks subject the farm to the SPCC regulation.” Not True!
What EPA does not make clear is that the SPCC and its regulations address provisions which come from the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA). The CWA only regulates actual discharges of a pollutant into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shore lands.

In fact, much criticism has been leveled at EPA for seeking to control, under the SPCC, milk and milk product containers. EPA received so much criticism for this silly suggestion that it has actually postponed for one year the effective date of a final rule specifically addressing milk and milk product containers under its oil spill prevention and counter measures program.

EPA required, as of November 10, 2010, that oil spill rules for oil drilling production or for facilities offshore must have and submit facility response plans. Apparently since agriculture is not quite as serous a problem as offshore oil drilling, farmers and ranchers have until November 10, 2011, to come into compliance by amending or developing a SPCC plan.

Even EPA says that you need to submit a plan if you “could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters of the United States or adjoining shore lines.” If you have this expectation and have above ground storage of more than 1,320 gallons or 660 gallons in a single container, then you may be placed into EPA’s incredible regulatory thicket.

Remember that EPA has been defeated in the courts when it attempts to regulate a facility when there is no discharge to the waters of the United States.

Reprinted with permission from

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