Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), this week introduced S. 3559, a bill that would amend the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule and ease the regulatory compliance for farms. Companion legislation, HR 3158, recently passed in the House without a single objection.
"I am pleased to join my good friend Senator Pryor to introduce this bipartisan bill that exempts most farmers from EPA's over-burdensome, costly Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule," Senator Inhofe said. "The SPCC rule was designed for major oil refineries, not farmers with small oil tanks. Our bill ensures that farmers in Oklahoma and across the nation will not have to navigate this unnecessary regulatory process, especially since there is virtually no history of oil spills from agricultural operations. Companion legislation passed without a single objection in the House, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to achieve similar bipartisan success."
"The EPA's proposed fuel storage rules would force thousands of farmers to pay for costly infrastructure projects - along with an extensive inspection and certification process - that they simply don't need," Senator Pryor said. "By exempting small farms from this regulatory overreach, our bipartisan bill would save farmers millions in unneeded costs."
Under EPA's plan, beginning next year, farmers who have oil and gas tanks on their farms will be required to hire a certified professional engineer to design a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plan - just like major oil refineries. They may also be required to purchase new capital equipment to comply with the rule, including dual containment tanks on farm trucks and fuel storage units that will unnecessarily raise the cost of farming.
This bill will exempt farmers from these regulations for aboveground oil storage tanks that have an aggregate storage capacity of less than 10,000 gallons. In addition to providing this exemption, it will also allow farmers who are regulated and have less than 42,000 gallons of above ground storage capacity to self certify their own plans. This will dramatically decrease costs by eliminating the need to hire a professional engineer - of which there are very few available to farmers to complete these plans.
Senator Inhofe has been working to lessen the regulatory burden of SPCC rule for some time. In June 2011, Senator Inhofe and 32 Senators (including all of the bill's cosponsors) joined to send a bipartisan letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that EPA extend the implementation timeline for the amended SPCC rule for farmers, and work to ensure that the rule is not overly burdensome or confusing. In November 2011, EPA quietly announced on its website that it would be extending the SPCC compliance date to May 10, 2013 - a victory for farmers struggling to comply with the rule.