EPA Offers a Bit of (SPCC) Relief

Environmental attorney Bonni F. Kaufman interprets the latest changes to the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Rule by EPA.

The Environmental Protection Agency continues to amend and revise the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule, one that has been on the books for over 30 years. Here, Washington environmental attorney Bonni Kaufman offers an analysis of the impact of the amended regulations.

EPA’s recent proposed revisions to the SPCC rule will be helpful to aviation companies that are currently required to install secondary containment, such as dikes or catchment basins, around parked refueler trucks. The proposed rule provides that secondary containment may be accomplished through other measures that will prevent releases of oil from reaching navigable waters, such as spill kits and storm drain covers. EPA has also issued SPCC Guidance which provides more detailed information regarding compliance with SPCC rules for mobile refuelers, loading areas, and when secondary containment will be considered impracticable.

On December 5, 2005, the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen L. Johnson, signed two proposed amendments to the SPCC rule that was finalized on July 17, 2002. The first extends the date for amendment and implementation of SPCC plans until October 31, 2007. The second streamlines the SPCC rules for facilities that store less than 10,000 gallons of oil; addresses oil filled equipment; exempts motive power containers from SPCC regulation; and most importantly for the aviation industry, exempts airport mobile refuelers from the specifically sized secondary containment requirements.

Comments on the proposed rules must be submitted by February 10, 2006. In conjunction with the proposed revisions, EPA also issued its SPCC Guidance for its Regional Inspectors, to assist inspectors and the regulated community in determining and understanding applicable SPCC requirements. The text of the proposed rules and guidance can be found at www.epa.gov/oilspill.


The SPCC rule requires facilities that generally store more than 1,320 gallons of oil in above ground storage containers to prepare an SPCC plan that describes the actions the facility must take to prevent oil spills from tanks and equipment from reaching navigable waters. The SPCC rules almost always apply to airport facilities due to the storage of large quantities of fuel needed for transportation activities. Specific provisions of the current SPCC regulations require “mobile or portable containers” to have “secondary containment,” such as a dike or catchment basin, sufficient to contain the capacity of the largest single compartment or container with sufficient free board to contain precipitation (40 CFR 112.8(11)).

Beginning in 2001-2002, certain EPA regional offices determined that mobile refuelers that were used solely to fuel aircraft were “mobile or portable storage containers” subject to secondary containment requirements. EPA regional offices began issuing Notices of Violation to FBOs, fuelers, and airlines for failing to install secondary containment around their parked mobile refuelers, even when the refuelers were “parked” on the ramp or in the airport operations area. This meant that facilities needed to install berms or catchment basins around refueler parking areas — large enough to contain a spill from the largest compartment of the refueler. This was completely impracticable for refuelers engaged in fuel transfer operations on the ramp or refuelers in standby mode.

Repeated efforts by the aviation trade associations as well as Congressional pressure over the last few years resulted in EPA’s recognition that secondary containment for refuelers was impracticable during fueling operations or when traveling to and from aircraft. However, EPA still required refuelers to have secondary containment when parked and not involved in fueling activities.

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