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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Regulations: Background and Legislation in the 113th Congress

Jonathan L. Ramseur
Specialist in Environmental Policy

In 1970, Congress enacted legislation directing the President to promulgate oil spill prevention and response regulations. This presidential authority was delegated to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by President Nixon in 1970. In 1973, EPA issued Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulations that require applicable facilities to prevent, prepare, and respond to oil discharges that may reach navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. Among other obligations, SPCC regulations require secondary containment (e.g., dikes or berms) for certain oil-storage units. In addition, SPCC plans must generally be certified by a licensed Professional Engineer.

In recent years, the SPCC regulations have received considerable interest from Congress. Most of this interest has involved the applicability of SPCC regulations to farms, which account for approximately 25% of SPCC regulated entities, second only to oil and gas production facilities. Farms may be subject to the SPCC regulations, because they store oil onsite for agricultural equipment use.

In 2002, EPA issued a final rule that made changes and clarifications to its SPCC regulations. The compliance date for this rule was extended on multiple occasions. For most types of facilities subject to SPCC requirements, the compliance deadline was November 10, 2011. However, EPA extended this compliance date for farms to May 10, 2013. Related to this deadline, Congress enacted P.L. 113-6 on March 26, 2013, which included a provision prohibiting EPA from using appropriations to enforce SPCC provisions at farms for 180 days after enactment (i.e., through September 22, 2013).

In addition, some Members in the 113
th Congress have offered multiple proposals that include provisions that would alter the scope and applicability of the SPCC regulations. All of these provisions would revise the applicability to farms under the SPCC regulations. In general, the bills’ provisions would alter the aggregate oil storage threshold that triggers compliance with SPCC regulations. Such provisions are included in the House version of the farm bill (H.R. 2642) and the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601).

The argument in support of recent SPCC legislation often concerns the financial impact of the SPCC regulations to farms. For example, a 2012 House report stated that the “mandated infrastructure improvements—along with the necessary inspection and certification by a specially licensed Professional Engineer will cost many farmers tens of thousands of dollars.” However, others have argued that EPA has considered the costs and benefits of its SPCC regulations during multiple rulemaking processes.

Date of Report: November 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R43306
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