Farmers are getting a break from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) On-Farm Oil/Fuel Storage regulation that would have required a written emergency operation plan to be developed and filed by Nov. 10, 2011. Because of a substantial number of Midwest farmers who objected to the deadline after suffering heavy flooding damages on their farms, the EPA announced this week the deadline for the rule has been extended until May, 2013.

Under the terms of the expanded EPA oil/fuel storage regulation, farms storing more than 1,320 gallons of oil in above ground bulk containers with a storage capacity of 55 gallons or more, and where there is a “reasonable expectation of a discharge” to a water source, would have been required to prepare and file a SPCC Plan by the November deadline.

“The EPA Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure, or SPCC program, has been in place for some time and applied to a large number of different types of industry, but under the expanded rule guidelines, farms that meet the criteria for above ground storage and that were not already included in the rule will be now fall under the new requirements,” reports Texas Farm Bureau’s George Caldwell, associate director of commodity and regulatory activities.

Common types of oil covered under SPCC found at farms include diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, and mineral oil.

According to the expanded scope of the regulation, farms storing more than 10,000 gallons of oil above ground must have their plans certified by a professional engineer, but depending on the capacity of their storage system, the regulations would allow farms with less than 10,000 gallons of storage capacity, and have a clean spill history, to self-certify their own SPCC plan.

Filed on farm

“This isn’t a plan that has to be submitted to EPA but rather one that can be filed on the farm and available for EPA inspection. This would become critical particularly during an investigation after a spill incident. In such cases those farms without a proper plan on file could be subject to hefty fines,” Caldwell added.

While the new deadline extension brings relief to farmers who say they still have questions about the program and were concerned about meeting next month’s deadline, many are still unhappy about what they term “another regulation” that complicates the business of farming.

But supporters of the expanded regulation argue that larger farms that have been in operation since Aug., 2002, already fall under the jurisdiction of the rule.

“Many farms already have a SPCC plan in place. Under the expanded regulation, however, farming operations that have come on line after Aug. of 2002 are now included as well,” Caldwell Said. “This is part of a growing environmental effort to protect water quality.”

Another change in the expanded rule is the definition of just what constitutes a waterway. The wording of the original rule involved oil spills or leaks that had the potential of reaching “navigable water ways,” implying a stream or flowing river, but Caldwell says under the expanded rule, the definition of “water source” is changing. For example, Gulf Coast farmers who have storage facilities that are not located near a navigable waterway but are subject to extreme flooding, from a hurricane, for example, are now considered at high risk for water contamination.

Caldwell says the Texas Farm Bureau has been staging a series of meetings about the rule changes all across the state to help farmers meet the new, expanded regulation. He is a topic speaker this week in a Corpus Christi Farm Bureau event for that express purpose. He says the deadline extension, however, will provide the Bureau and farmers across Texas information to prepare a better plan before the new 2013 deadline.