Regulatory Alert: EPA’s SPCC Rules Commonly Overlooked

Facilities with aboveground oil storage exceeding 1,320 gallons must comply with federal SPCC regulations.

Since 1974, EPA has required facilities that store oil above certain threshold quantities to prepare Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans. Despite the length of time that SPCC requirements have been in existence, failure to prepare an SPCC plan has been one of the top violations discovered by EPA when performing multi-media compliance inspections.

Why the lack of compliance? Unlike many other federal regulations, most states do not have their own version of the SPCC regulation, and therefore, many facilities are unaware of the SPCC requirements. Also, the SPCC applicability threshold is much smaller (1,320 gallons) than some States’ thresholds for spill prevention plans. Further, many State requirements are significantly different than SPCC Plan requirements. Therefore, compliance with the State storage tank program requirements does not equate to compliance with the federal SPCC requirements.

Recently, Liberty Environmental, Inc. learned of EPA inspectors visiting small facilities that commonly have fallen “under the radar,” for the purpose of determining SPCC compliance. As a result, Liberty is sending this Regulatory Alert to facilities that are potentially subject to SPCC regulations, in an effort to bring awareness to these facilities and to allow those facilities to avoid possible penalties for non-compliance.

Who is affected by the SPCC rule?

In general, facilities that store oil aboveground in quantities exceeding 1,320 gallons, or underground in quantities exceeding 42,000 gallons, and can reasonably be expected to discharge oil into waters of the United States in the event of a spill, must prepare and implement and SPCC plan. Some important applicability criteria include the following:

All containers 55 gallons in size and greater must be counted toward the 1,320 gallon threshold. In addition to storage tanks, these include hydraulic fluid reservoirs, oil-filled electric transformers, drums and totes.

All oil products, including heating oil, waste oil, mineral oil, vegetable oil and solvents, must be considered.

Major SPCC Requirements

Federal SPCC regulations require that affected facilities prepare and implement an SPCC plans. The following are some of the major requirements:

– All storage containers, including portable containers, must have secondary containment.

Discharge prevention must be provided for tank loading and unloading areas, oil handling and transfer areas.

Integrity testing must be performed for all bulk storage containers. In some cases, visual inspection will suffice.

Security measures must be in place to protect tanks and their controls from unauthorized access.

– A written SPCC Plan must be prepared and certified by a licensed professional engineer.

– The plan must be re-evaluated every 5 years or each time a change is made to the facility that affects the plan.

Formal, annual SPCC Plan Training must be provided to all oil-handling personnel.

SPCC Rule Revisions

On July 17, 2002, EPA made sweeping revisions to the SPCC rules, and additional changes were made in 2006, 2008 and 2009. EPA also made significant interpretations on elements of the SPCC rule in its 2004 SPCC guidance document. All SPCC plans must now be updated to meet the new rule requirements. For up-to-date information on SPCC rulemaking and policy, visit EPA’s Oil Program web site at