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Senators Question EPA's Expected Enforcement of Spill Prevention Rule

Amendment to FY13 CR kept EPA from enforcing SPCC until September, but now Senators question agency's policy in regards to retroactive enforcement

Published on: Aug 23, 2013

Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Thursday issued a letter to the to Environmental Protection Agency expressing concern about the agency's plan to enforce the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule on farmers retroactively.

The rule went into effect on May 10, though an amendment to the 2013 Continuing Resolution prohibited the EPA from enforcing it until Sept. 22.

"It has come to our attention that the EPA is informing agriculture producers that it does have the authority to begin enforcing the SPCC rule retroactively beginning September 23," the Senators wrote. "Congress has repeatedly raised concerns about the implementation of this rule within the agriculture sector, making these reports particularly unsettling."

Amendment to FY13 CR kept EPA from enforcing SPCC until September, but now Senators question agencys policy in regards to retroactive enforcement
Amendment to FY13 CR kept EPA from enforcing SPCC until September, but now Senators question agency's policy in regards to retroactive enforcement

The rule requires farmers to implement engineer-certified written plans, containment measures, or upgrade storage containers for all oil containers kept on the farm – including petroleum products and animal fats – depending on the size and location of the container.

But the Senators say the rule unfairly targets farmers because it was originally intended to regulated large-scale energy production, and note that there have been several attempts earlier this year to scale back SPCC regulations on farm industries.

"Congress has clearly established its intent to limit the impact of the SPCC rule on the agricultural sector, and to ultimately exempt the majority of it from having to comply," the Senators added.

"If the agency does plan to retroactively enforce the rule, will you please explain why you are doing this despite the clear, bipartisan steps Congress has taken over the past few months to limit this rule's impact on the agriculture community?" they asked in the letter.

The Senate's Water Resources Development Act, passed in May, also includes an amendment from Inhofe and Pryor that provides selected exemptions to the SPCC rule for farms with tanks of certain sizes.

Though the amendment was approved unanimously in the Senate, it is unclear if a similar provision will appear in the House version of the Water Resources Act, which has yet to be considered. Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Penn., indicated earlier this month that it will likely be considered following the August recess.

Click here to view full text of the letter and view EPA's full regulations on the SPCC.