By Amanda Czepiel, J.D. BLR Legal Editor
For many, that question will be answered during an EPA inspection. Your best bet to pass an SPCC plan inspection? Be prepared.
EPA has been conducting SPCC plan inspections since 1973 in an effort to minimize oil spills from reaching U.S. waters, and in recent years, has stepped up both the frequency of inspections and enforcement actions. According to EPA’s guidance document "What to Expect During an SPCC/FRP Inspection", the SPCC plan inspections have two purposes:
- To ensure that oil storage facilities, refineries, electrical utilities, oil production fields, and other SPCC-regulated industries are in compliance with the SPCC regulations (40 CFR 112)
- To educate owners and operators about the SPCC regulations and ways to ensure compliance
How to Prepare for an SPCC Plan Inspection
First of all, a copy of a facility’s SPCC plan should be available to EPA representative inspectors at all times, and should be easily accessible. Any other relevant documentation of your operating procedures, spill prevention measures, personnel training, inspection procedures, drainage discharges, and spill incidents should be provided to the inspector, in addition to site plans for tankage, diversionary structures, and drainage patterns.
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For the meetings and the facility tour, have personnel who are familiar with your facility’s SPCC measures, diversionary structures, and standard operating procedures accompany the inspector(s). This will minimize any delay in responding to the inspector(s)’s questions and ensure that you provide the correct information. Check to see if all past corrective actions have been completed and that records of completion are with your current SPCC plan.
What to Expect During the Inspection
SPCC plan inspections can be both announced and unannounced. The inspector(s) will evaluate:
- Storage tanks, and other equipment containing oil
- Diversionary structures
- Truck loading/unloading areas
- Facility design
- Drainage patterns
- Operating procedures
- SPCC measures and their ability to prevent the release of oil to storm drains (onsite or offsite), creeks, streams, ditches, rivers, bays, or other waterways
When inspectors arrive, they will most likely review the written SPCC plan. After this review, an inspector will conduct a walk-through of your facility, possibly taking photographs as proof of SPCC plan implementation. The measures discussed in your plan must have been implemented throughout the facility in order to be in compliance with the SPCC regulations.
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Typically, after the walk-through, the inspector will hold a debriefing meeting with the facility operator. During the meeting, the inspector will discuss his or her observations, and provide an opportunity for all parties to ask questions and clarify any ambiguities in the plan or its implementation. The inspection and evaluation may be summarized in a written report as a follow-up to the inspection, and an order for corrective action, if necessary, will be issued.
Amanda Czepiel, J.D., is a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental law publications. Ms. Czepiel has over 6 years of experience as an attorney and writer in the field of environmental compliance resources and has published numerous articles on a variety of environmental law topics, including wastewater and NPDES permitting, brownfields and contaminated sites remediation, oil spill prevention, wetlands, and corporate sustainability. Before starting her career in publishing, Ms. Czepiel worked in hospitality consulting and for various non-profit organizations and government agencies in the environmental field. Ms. Czepiel received her law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law.