The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill to clarify requirements facing farmers under the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure, or SPCC, rule.

The bill, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act or H.R. 3158, was introduced last fall by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and co-sponsored by 38 other Members.

It would ease some of the restrictions imposed by the current SPCC rule, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The SPCC rule is applicable to any facility, including farms, with an aggregate above-ground oil storage capacity of 1,320 gallons in tanks of 55 gallons or greater. In order to fully comply with SPCC rules, a facility must have, among other things, identified contractors who can help operators clean up an oil spill; provided overfill prevention devices such as a high-level alarm; and provided effective secondary containment measures such as a dike or double-walled tanks.

Farms in operation before Aug. 16, 2002, need SPCC plans in place now, while those started after Aug. 16, 2002, have until May 10, 2013, to develop and implement their plans.

The bill passed this week would create three classes of farms for SPCC purposes:

1) Farms with individual tanks with storage capacity greater than 10,000 gallons, aggregate storage capacity of at least 42,000 gallons or spill histories would need professional engineers to certify their SPCC plans.

2) Farms with aggregate storage capacity greater than 10,000 gallons but less than 42,000 gallons and no history of spills could be self-certified by the farms’ owners or operators.

3) Farms with aggregate storage capacity less than 10,000 gallons and no history of spills would be exempt from requirements.

The bill would also exclude all containers on separate parcels that have a capacity less than 1,320 gallons from the aggregate storage capacity of a farm.

NAWG and a dozen other organizations wrote leaders of the Committee on Wednesday to express strong support for the bill, saying it would “bring some much needed clarity to agriculture on the confusing requirements of the EPA’s [SPCC] rule.”

The agriculture community has repeatedly expressed concerns that the existing threshold for SPCC plan requirements, 1,320 gallons, has no scientific or industry basis; that establishing two separate rule deadlines for long-existing and newer farms has caused intense confusion; and that requiring professional engineers to sign off on SPCC plans adds significant logistical hurdles and cost to compliance with the rule.

Groups representing farmers have been further frustrated by EPA’s response to questions about compliance assistance and challenges getting EPA officials to farms to talk with agricultural producers about the issue.

NAWG will continue to advocate for the bill as it moves toward full House consideration.

More about the SPCC issue is available from EPA at http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/spcc_ag.htm.

More about NAWG’s work related to SPCC and the full letter sent this week is www.wheatworld.org/environmentalregulation/.