The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, by voice vote, approved H.R. 3158 -- the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act. The legislation directs the EPA administrator to raise exemption levels for a single fuel container at any farm from 1,320 gallons to 10,000 gallons and allow for self-certification with storage capacity levels of greater than 10,000 gallons but less than 42,000 gallons, providing the facility has experienced no spills. A professional engineer (PE) only would be required to write a SPCC Plan if a single container capacity exceeded 10,000 gallons or total storage capacity exceeded 42,000 gallons or if the farm or facility has experienced a spill.

Prior to committee markup of H.R. 3158, the NCC joined 12 other organizations on a letter to Reps. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman, and Rahall (D-W.V.), ranking member, of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, expressing support for this legislation. The letter is on the NCC’s website at www.cotton.org/issues/2012/upload/fuelslet.pdf.

Current regulations require that farms in operation on or before Aug. 16, 2002, must maintain their existing plans and amend those plans if needed by May 10, 2013. Farms in operation after Aug. 16, 2002, but before May 10, 2013 must prepare and implement a plan on or before May 10, 2013. Farms that begin operations after May 10, 2013, will be required to have a plan in place before they begin operations.

The SPCC rule applies to farmers and ranchers with above-ground oil storage facilities with a capacity of at least 1,320 gallons in containers holding more than 55 gallons and can reasonably be expected to discharge oil into navigable water. The regulation requires farmers to make structural improvements to prevent spills by constructing a containment facility, like a dike or a basin, which must retain 110 percent of the fuel in the container.

Such infrastructure improvements would cost farmers tens of thousands of dollars and would cost even more to procure the services of a PE. Many producers have reported that they are unable to find PEs willing to work on farms. Some states do not have a single qualified PE registered to provide SPCC consultation.

More information about the SPCC rule is at www.cotton.org/tech/safety/spccextension.cfm.