The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently responded to a lawsuit by several environmental groups by agreeing to enact rulemaking to expand the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC”) program beyond oil products to include other hazardous substances. The consent decree will impact thousands of industrial facilities and manufacturing processes in numerous industries across the United States.

In compliance with the Clean Water Act, in 1973, the EPA established SPCC initial requirements with many subsequent amendments that included procedures, methods, and equipment to prevent oil discharges but did not include hazardous substances.

According to the groups’ lawsuit, the U. S. Coast Guard data show that thousands of self-reported hazardous substance spills occur every year at onshore facilities and that many of those reach bodies of water, endangering public health.  An example sited was that a facility’s storage tank spilled over 5,000 gallons of a hazardous material into the Elk River in West Virginia.  The spill contaminated the water supply leaving 300,000 people without clean drinking water.

Under the terms of the agreement, the EPA is required to issue a proposed regulation within 18 months from the February 18, 2016 filing date, although that time may be extended.

It is anticipated that the rules will cover hazardous substances defined by the EPA to include chemicals identified in 40 CFR 116.  The regulations most likely will apply to any facility using and storing significant amounts of hazardous substances, consequently, numerous industrial facilities nationwide will be effected.

All facilities that store or use hazardous substances may want to consider preparing information on the quantities stored, the size and location of the storage vessels, and the specific spill containment in place in preparation of the upcoming rule changes to the SPCC requirements.

The United States EPA has not commented on the specifics of the forthcoming regulations, however, it is anticipated that they will resemble the SPCC rules currently in place for oil products storage.  Included will be the specified threshold that will mandate compliance requirements for facilities to develop customized plans to prevent, contain and respond to hazardous substance spills.

Spillco will continue to monitor all future developments of this project and invite you to continue to visit our site for all updates.