Special Topics in Environmental Management

EPA Gets Serious About SPCC Inspections

EPA isn’t hiding the fact that it is hammering away at facilities that are deemed to have inadequate oil spill plans.  In one recent settlement, a Pennsylvania-based oil company paid a $25,347 penalty for alleged violations of oil spill prevention regulations at one of their oil storage facilities.

In this case, EPA inspectors found that the company’s SPCC plan failed to comply with federal oil pollution prevention regulations during a compliance inspection. In particular, EPA alleged that the plan did not have required elements, including information on potential oil discharges and bulk oil storage tanks, and provisions for a triannual plan review.

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According to EPA, the settlement penalty takes into account the company’s cooperation with EPA in resolving the alleged violations and complying with applicable SPCC regulations. Meaning—unless you play nice, you could be fined even more.

What to Expect from an EPA SPCC Inspection

SPCC inspections are conducted by EPA and may be announced or unannounced. For this reason, you should be prepared at all times to meet with an EPA inspector. Should you find an inspector at your door, here’s what’s going to happen.

The inspector will present appropriate identification and request that the SPCC plan be made available for on-site review. The EPA inspector will typically review the SPCC plan in order to become familiar with your facility’s operation, layout, and spill potential. The facility representative may be asked to explain the spill prevention measures that are in place as well as describe other topics such as personnel training and/or facility tank inspections.

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Following the brief SPCC plan review, the inspector will request a tour of your facility and will inspect the spill prevention measures that are in place as well as the storage tanks and containers. The inspector may take photographs and/or videos in order to document any findings. Since the inspection may potentially result in an enforcement action, inspection documentation cannot be released to the public. Furthermore, you may wish to exercise your right as the inspected facility to claim photo documentation as proprietary and subject to confidential business information exclusion. Owners and operators should keep a camera and film at their facilities for unannounced visits.

Following the inspection, the inspector will advise the facility operator on any findings. EPA will finalize an inspection report and finalize it for review. Subsequent correspondence, such as Notice of Non-Compliance, Notice of Violations, or Letters of Compliance, may then be issued to the facility.

This company was fined because it was missing specific elements of the SPCC plan. See tomorrow’s Advisor to find out what your SPCC plan is required to include.