To the delight of many in agriculture, the EPA has pushed the deadline for implementation of the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) to May 2013.

The SPCC targets the prevention – as opposed to the post-spill clean-up -- of any discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. Farmers and ranchers were among those who faced a Nov. 10 deadline to come up with an SPCC plan. The regulation says operations subject to the SPCC include “facilities that drill, produce, gather, store, use, process, refine, transfer, distribute or consume oil and oil products.”

According to the EPA, facilities required to produce a plan had to meet three criteria:

  • It must be non-transportation-related.
  • It must have an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons.
  • There must be a reasonable expectation of a discharge into or upon navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.

In a statement, the USA Rice Federation called the EPA’s revised timeline a “major victory” and provided an EPA spokesperson’s quote to help explain the agency’s actions: "'An overwhelming segment of the continental United States was affected by flooding during the spring and summer of 2011. Other areas were impacted by devastating fires. Many counties in many states were declared disaster areas by either the federal or state government or both. As a result, EPA believes that because of their unique nature, farms have been disproportionately affected and need additional time to prepare and implement a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan.'"

Further, “the USA Rice Federation's Environmental Regulatory Subcommittee has been working diligently since the rule was announced last November to have the agency extend the deadline. USA Rice Environmental Regulatory Subcommittee Chairman Ray Vester met with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss the negative impacts of the natural disasters to rice country and their impacts on rule compliance. Coupled with a lack of compliance assistance, Vester predicted low compliance by the original November 2011 deadline. The subcommittee continuously worked to accumulate various datasets to show EPA that the rule was virtually unknown in the agricultural community and would result in low compliance. EPA credited the rice industry with providing justification for extending the rule.” 

The amendment, warned the Federation, “does not relieve farms from the liability of any spills that occur while there is not an SPCC Plan in place.”

The National Farmers Union also weighed in.

“While it is an important goal to make sure stored oil does not spill or leak into our nation’s waterways, it is equally important that the regulation is implemented in a way that farmers and ranchers can provide appropriate safeguards in a timely manner,” said Roger Johnson, NFU President.

“In various parts of the country, many farmers are struggling to recover from catastrophic drought and flooding. We are pleased that EPA has listened to the concerns of Farmers Union members and extended the implementation deadline. This extension is instrumental in ensuring that the agriculture community understands SPCC requirements and has time to obtain technical assistance and implement the proper safeguards for stored oil.”