Special Topics in Environmental Management

SPCC Inspections: Lessons from Enforcement Actions

The SPCC regulations at 40CFR 112 provide the framework for safely managing stored oil in different types of facilities and under diverse conditions. While they are not simple and have multiple requirements, the SPCC regulations are law and failure to comply with them, and all other applicable regulations, will have consequences.

In early 2014, a Los Angeles oil production facility found this out the hard way, but not through a SPCC inspection, at least not at first. The company, which is located in a residential area,  was inspected in late 2013 because since 2010, nearby community members complained about “noxious odors” coming from the facility as well health problems like nose bleeds and headaches. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspected the site they found not only violations of the Clean Air Act, (CAA) but multiple SPCC violations as well, including:

Learn a detailed analysis of the SPCC regulations as they apply to aboveground storage tanks and much more during our in-depth webinar on March 12, 2014.
Register Now

  • Failure to develop and implement a complete SPCC plan in a timely manner,
  • Failure to accurately diagram the facility,
  • Failure to train personnel on the proper operation and maintenance of equipment,
  • Failure to maintain an emergency contact list of local agencies or develop reporting instructions for employees in case of oil discharges,
  • Failure to record inspections and produce required inspection schedules,
  • Failure to inspect pressure vessels, steel piping, steel tanks, or perform thickness and corrosion rate tests in piping;

Appropriate enforcement actions are under consideration  by the EPA.

On the other side of the country, a Nantucket oil storage facility was found to be in a similar situation and settled with the EPA in December 2013. The allegations in the settlement were a result of an unannounced exercise carried out in 2012 by representatives of the EPA, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), with the purpose of determining if the facility could adequately respond to an oil release.

Join us for an in-depth webinar on March 12 where our speaker, an experienced EHS professional who has helped many companies develop compliant SPCC plans, will provide participants with clear guidance on how to assure that their existing AST-related plans are compliant. She will also discuss the recent revised SPCC guidance for regional inspectors.

Although the facility had a Facility Response Plan (FRP), the exercise proved the facility could not successfully respond to an oil spill because its personnel were not adequately trained to effectively limit impacts from an oil spill. The company agreed to pay a $14,000 fine and will also spend at least $37,940 to purchase an emergency response trailer and other spill response equipment and supplies for use in responding to spills at the facility, as well as elsewhere on the island of Nantucket.

In August 2013, a fuel distribution company in Yakima, WA also settled with the EPA after inspectors found multiple SPCC violations including:

  • Failure to fully implement an SPCC Plan (and the Plan was not adequate for the facility),
  • Lack of evidence of required SPCC procedures, inspections and training,
  • Lack of an available and complete SPCC Plan, and
  • Breaches in secondary fuel containment from unknown piping and cracks in the walls.

EPA said that spills from the facility have the potential to harm the Yakima River and a detailed SPCC Plan and associated training, inspections and other requirements are necessary to protect water quality. The company’s settlement with EPA included a $27,522 penalty.