Special Topics in Environmental Management

How to Tell if You Are Subject to SPCC Rules

Here are several points you should think about to determine if your facility is subject to the SPCC program:

  • First, the program applies to capacity, not the actual amount oil stored.
  • Second, in calculating capacity, count only containers with storage capacity equal to or greater than 55 U.S. gallons.
  • Third, oil-filled equipment also counts in the capacity determination. Such equipment typically includes hydraulic systems, lubricating systems, gear boxes, machining coolant systems, heat transfer systems, transformers, circuit breakers, and manufacturing equipment. When calculating your capacity, do not make the mistake of looking only at oil storage vessels such as tanks or drums. Also, vehicles (e.g., tank trucks) and railroad cars used to transport oil exclusively within the confines of a facility are subject to SPCC regulation.
  • Fourth, oil of any type is subject to the SPCC program. In addition to the various petroleum products, types of oil that require SPCC compliance include fats, oils, or greases of animal, fish, or marine mammal origin; vegetable oils, including oil from seeds, nuts, fruits or kernels; and mineral oils.

The complete SPCC regulations are at 40 CFR Part 112. Managers of subject facilities are advised to study the regulations to acquire a confidence that they understand each applicable requirement. In your review, pay special attention to the following.

No Discharge to Water

Managers with facilities not directly adjacent to U.S. waters or their tributaries may seek to avoid SPCC regulation by demonstrating that no spilled oil could reasonably be expected to reach the water. According to the regulatory language, making such a determination requires consideration of the geographical and locational aspects of the facility. The location of the facility must be considered in relation to any feature that could convey spilled oil to a U.S. water. Such features include streams, ponds and ditches (perennial or intermittent), storm or sanitary sewers, wetlands, mudflats, sandflats, or farm tile drains.

The distance to navigable waters, volume of material stored, worst case weather conditions, drainage patterns, land contours, soil conditions, etc., must also be taken into account.

Further, according to the regulations, the determination may not include consideration of manmade features such as dikes, equipment or other structures (like levees) that may serve to restrain, hinder, contain, or prevent an oil discharge. EPA’s thinking here is that these structures were not specifically designed and constructed to block oil flows; further, a catastrophic event that caused an oil discharge could also result in the failure of other structures that may not then contain the release.