US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

November 2011 SPCC compliance deadline extended to may 2013 for agricultural facilities; EPA providing compliance assistance to farms for SPCC rule


Boston, Mass. -- EPA has recently extended the date that agricultural facilities must come into compliance with the new Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule to May 10, 2013. Many of the changes to the 1974 rule now streamline the requirements for farmers and small facilities, especially those storing up to 10,000 gallons of oil.  Agricultural facilities that began storing oil before August 16, 2002 must revise their SPCC plan to meet the 2002 changes by the May 2013 deadline.

EPA’s SPCC program was developed to prevent oil spills from damaging our water, land, and natural resources.  Agricultural facilities can reduce the risk of oil discharged from their tanks by developing containment and response plans and taking basic precautions, preventing clean up costs and fines.  The rule requires agricultural operators have an SPCC Plan if:

  1. The facility stores more than 1,320 gallons of oil or fuel in above ground tanks and/or containers (Note: in New England, all Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) are regulated by the state UST programs and are exempt from SPCC);
  2. A release of oil could reasonably be expected to discharge into waters of the U.S.

To determine whether a facility is regulated, begin by counting containers of 55 gallons or more. If the facility’s total volume is greater than 1,320 gallons, the operation exceeds the regulatory capacity.  .  Oil  includes on-road and off-road diesel; gasoline; lubrication oils; hydraulic oils; crop oil; adjuvant oils;oil sludge; synthetic oils; oil refuse; oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil; animal fats;vegetable oils; and fish oils. It is important to note that propane is not oil and does not count toward the 1,320 gallons threshold.

Additionally, if the containers are located on separate parcels or a significant distance from each other, they may be considered separate facilities when calculating whether the threshold is met.  For example:

  • A farm has five greenhouses located adjacent to each other and each has a 300 gallon fuel oil Aboveground Storage Tank (AST).  It would usually be considered one facility, and the volume of each AST would count toward the total aggregate volume of 1,500 gallons.  It is an SPCC regulated facility because the aggregate volume exceeds 1,320 gallons.
  • Another farm has five greenhouses with 500 gallon ASTs, three are located on one parcel and two on a second parcel.  This configuration may be considered two facilities. The first facility has an aggregate volume of 1,500 gallons and would be SPCC regulated.  The second facility has an aggregate volume of 1,000 gallons and would not be SPCC regulated.  It is always important to document your reasoning for your facility determinations, particularly when a facility drops under the regulatory threshold.

The second criterion is: “a discharge of oil could reasonably be expected to reach waters of the U.S.”  'Waters of the U.S.' include all navigable waters, lakes, rivers, streams and creeks, as well as certain wetlands.  See the Clean Water Act definition of “waters of the U.S.”

The phrase “could reasonably be expected” refers to the likelihood that an oil discharge would reach “water of the U.S.”.  If facility containers are located in a large natural geographic “bowl” that would prevent oil from reaching a waterway, a plan may not be needed.  However, if the tanks are located near surface waters such as a brook, wetland, etc., or a drainage ditch or storm drain that provides a pathway to surface water, a SPCC Plan is mostly likely needed.  When reviewing operations, man-made features such as secondary containment, roads, railroads, fences, buildings, etc., cannot be used in determining if oil can reasonably be expected to reach water. If it is determined that an SPCC plan is not needed, detailed justification should be documented.

There are several exemptions for agricultural operations.  These include: milk and milk product containers, associated piping, and appurtenances; home heating oil tanks at single family homes; pesticide containers used to mix and load formulations; and pesticide application equipment.   The “milk exemption” is recent and is limited to containers for milk and milk products and their associated piping and appurtenances.  You can find out more about the milk exemption at:

The recent Rule changes also allow agricultural operations that store 10,000 gallons of oil or less and meet the Tier 1 or 2 qualified facility requirements toprepare and self-certify their SPCC Plan.

An example SPCC Plan which can be used for a Tier 2 Plan is available on EPA’s website.  Use the sample plan in Appendix D of “SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors” as your guide (

Farms may qualify to be a Tier 1 facility if they have no single container larger than 5,000 gallons.  The Tier 1 Qualified SPCC Plan Template, including an example plan, is available for download at:, where you will also find Secondary Containment Calculation Worksheets, with helpful examples.

Although anyone can use the templates, not all states allow self-certification For example, New Hampshire requires all SPCC Plans to be certified by a professional engineer.

For SPCC compliance assistance in New England, contact:
Alex Sherrin Office 617-918-1252  Mobile 617-223-1368

More information:

Fact sheet for farms and producers:
SPCC Guidance for Regional Inspectors:

EPA Hotline and Oil Information Center: 1-800-424-9346
EPA Ag Compliance Assistance Center: 1-888-663-2155; or

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