U.S. EPA published its most recent amendments to the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule last Friday, November 13, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 58784). Unintended foreshadowing, perhaps ...
By way of background, the SPCC Rule was originally adopted on December 11, 1973, to address the potential impacts of oil discharges to navigable waters of the United States. The Rule was amended - after years of comment and discussion - on July 17, 2002, in ways that substantially increased the demands imposed on crude oil producers and others when preparing and implementing their SPCC plans. Recognizing the increased burdens placed on producers, EPA extended the deadline for compliance several times to review and address the issues created by its regulatory amendments.
On December 5, 2008, EPA again amended the SPCC Rule to clarify and streamline specific regulatory requirements, including several regarding crude oil production facilities. Following the change in administrations, the agency subsequently delayed the effective date of these rule amendments to allow time for additional review to make sure that they "properly reflect[ed] consideration of all relevant facts." Not all did, apparently.
EPA has decided to eliminate from the December 5th amendments the following:
- The exemption from regulation for produced water containers at oil production facilities that, as part of the SPCC Plan, could have been certified by a PE (i.e., Professional Engineer) as storing oil in quantities that would not be harmful to navigable waters even if completely discharged;
- The categorical exclusion for oil production facilities from loading/unloading rack requirements; and,
- The alternative criteria allowing reduced regulation for crude oil production facilities based largely on marginal production factors.
The amendments become effective January 14, 2010, with a compliance date previously set for the preparation or amendment, and implementation, of revised SPCC Plans of November 10, 2010. EPA states in the rulemaking that it will be proposing new compliance dates, so stay tuned.
For more, see here.