Special Topics in Environmental Management

FAQs for Amending Your SPCC Plan

Plans must also be amended when there is a change in the facility design, construction, operation, or maintenance that materially affects its potential for a discharge. Here are some frequently asked questions on amending your SPCC plan.

As it relates to amendment requirements for SPCC Plans, what is considered a "material change?"

A “material change” is defined as a change in the facility design, construction, operation, or maintenance that affects its potential for a discharge. Examples of changes that may require amendment of the Plan include, but are not limited to:

  • Commissioning or decommissioning containers
  • Replacement, reconstruction, or movement of containers
  • Reconstruction, replacement, or installation of piping systems
  • Construction or demolition that might alter secondary containment structures
  • Changes of product or service
  • Revision of standard operation or maintenance procedures at a facility

An amendment made under this section must be prepared within 6 months and implemented as soon as possible, but not later than 6 months following preparation of the amendment (40 CFR 112.5(a)).
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Is approval from EPA required for any amendments to the SPCC Plan?

EPA approval of an amendment to the SPCC Plan is not required. However, if the regional EPA administrator (RA) is not satisfied that the amendment fulfills the requirements of the SPCC rules, the RA may require further amendment(s) of the Plan.

Can an RA overrule an SPCC Plan amendment “deviation”?

Once an RA becomes aware of a facility’s SPCC Plan as a result of an on-site inspection or the submission of required information, he or she must follow the principles of good engineering practice and not overrule a deviation unless it is clear that the deviation fails to afford equivalent environmental protection.

This does not mean that the deviation must achieve "mathematical equivalency," but it does mean equivalent protection of the environment. EPA encourages innovative techniques, but the techniques must also protect the environment. In general, professional engineers (PEs) will seek to protect themselves from liability by certifying only measures that do provide equivalent environmental protection. The RA always retains authority to require amendments for deviations, as with other parts of the Plan certified by a PE.

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Does the decommissioning of a container constitute a “material amendment”?

The decommissioning of a container that results in permanent closure of that container is a material amendment. According to EPA, decommissioning a container could materially decrease the potential for a discharge and require Plan amendment, unless the decommissioning brings the facility below the regulatory threshold, making the preparation and implementation of a Plan no longer a requirement.

Is the replacement of tanks, containers, or equipment considered to be a material change?

The replacement of tanks, containers, or equipment may not be a material change if the replacements are identical in quality, capacity, and number. However, a replacement of one tank with more than one identical tank that results in greater storage capacity is a material change because the storage capacity of the facility, and its consequent discharge potential, have increased.

Is a change to the type of product stored in a container considered to be a material change?

It may or may not be, depending on the situation, because if the change may materially affect facility operations, it may be considered a material change. An example of a change of product that would be a material change would be a change from storage of asphalt to storage of gasoline. Storage of gasoline instead of asphalt presents an increased fire and explosion hazard. A switch from storage of gasoline to storage of asphalt might result in increased stress on the container, leading to its failure.

However, changes of product involving different grades of gasoline might not be a material change and may not require amendment of the Plan if the differing grades of gasoline do not substantially change the conditions of storage and potential for discharge. Owners and operators should contact their EPA RAs for clarification.

See tomorrow’s issue of the Environmental Daily Advisor for help with notice and Plan amendment requirements after you’ve had a spill, plus an introduction to our essential SPCC plan compliance kit.