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05.13.2015 Legal News

Farms and the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA)

Pursuant to the Clean Water Act’s Oil Spill Pollution, Prevention, Control and Countermeasures Rule (SPCC Rule)1, farmers and other oil storage and handling facilities are required to have an SPCC Plan to prevent oil spills into “Waters of the United States.”  On June 10, 2014, the President signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014.2 Section 1049 of the WRRDA changes certain applicability provisions of the SPCC Rule for farms and allows a farm to self-certify its SPCC Plan under certain conditions. 

Pursuant to the WRRDA, a farmer is not required to have an SPCC Plan if it has: (1) an aggregate aboveground storage capacity less than 2,500 gallons; or (2) an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 2,500 gallons and less than 6,000 gallons and no reportable discharge history.3 A farmer can self-certify the SPCC Plan if the farm has an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 6,000 gallons but less than 20,000 gallons, no individual tank with a capacity greater than 10,000 gallons, and no reportable discharge history.

The WRRDA also changes which fuel storage containers must be included when calculating a farm’s aggregate fuel storage capacity.  This change may affect whether a farm falls into the exempt, self-certified or professionally certified plan category.  Previously, the SPCC rule required a farm to include any storage container of 50 gallons or more in its aggregate capacity calculation.  Under the new law, a farm may now exclude all containers on separate parcels that have a capacity of 1,000 gallons or less and those holding animal feed ingredients approved for use in livestock feed by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs.

Finally, the law requires that EPA conduct a study to determine the appropriate amount for an SPCC rule exemption based on what amount creates a significant risk of an oil discharge to water.  EPA expects the study to be completed by June 2015, and, within 18 months of completion, it can adjust the SPCC exemption level to not more than 6,000 gallons and not less than 2,500 gallons.  It will be interesting to see if EPA attempts to lower the current 6,000 gallon exemption.  Either way, once EPA finishes the study, it is expected to promulgate a rule amending the SPCC requirements associated with the applicability thresholds and other WRRDA amendments.


140 CFR 112.
2 H.R. 3080 – 113th Congress (2104-2014).
3 “Reportable discharge history” is defined as a single oil discharge that exceeds 1,000 gallons, or two oil discharges that each exceed 40 gallons within any 12-month period either: (1) in the 3 years prior to the certification date of the SPCC Plan; or (2) since becoming subject to the SPCC rule, if the facility has been in operation for less than 3 years.