Tis the season…2015 Hurricane's
Hurricane prediction, mapping, and warning systems have never been better so owners/operators of regulated facilities now have ample time to prepare for storms that could potentially cause uncontrolled releases of hazardous substances. In a recent advisory from EPA’s Region 4, the agency reminded owners/operators of their responsibilities related to preparing for and responding to accidental releases.
According to the Federal EPA, complex industrial processes that implement pre-hurricane shutdown procedures need to take special care during such operations “as process parameters may be in unusual ranges and operators may have less experience controlling plant conditions during a shutdown.” In particular, the EPA reminds owners/operators that CAA Section 112(r)(1) establishes a general duty to prevent releases of listed and other extremely hazardous substances and to minimize the consequences when releases do occur. Facilities that are covered by the national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants general duty clause at 40 CFR Section 63.6(e)(1)(i) must at all times operate and maintain any affected source safely and use good air pollution control practices— including during start-up, shutdown, and malfunction periods.
ARE YOU KEEPING ADEQUATE INSPECTION RECORDS AS PART OF YOUR SPCC PLAN?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that oil production facilities and sites with bulk oil storage capacity must maintain a comprehensive Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan.
This blog has previously offered information about a number of specific aspects of maintaining compliance with the EPA's SPCC Rule, including the need to account for mobile refuelers when designing secondary containment systems. We've also discussed SPCC requirements that are unique to farms.
Recent research sheds some light on one part of the SPCC Rule that may often go overlooked — its record keeping requirements — as well as the potential costs of noncompliance. An article published by Environmental Leader looked at some of the findings of this study.
Just how costly is failing to maintain an SPCC Plan?
In cases where a covered facility is found to have no SPCC Plan in place, the minimum fine is $1,500 — even if there has never been a spill at the site. If a facility experiences a spill and does not have a compliant response plan, total penalties can amount to over $40,000 per day until the situation is resolved. There is no cap on the total amount a facility can be fined in this case.
Penalties for violations of the SPCC Rule's record keeping provisions may be less severe, but that does not mean the agency isn't serious about enforcement. The study referenced by Environmental Leader looked at "expedited settlements" reached between the EPA and 93 separate facilities during the first half of 2013. Altogether, these facilities were cited for more than 500 distinct violations of the SPCC Rule, including more than 100 citations related to inadequate record keeping.
Bulk storage facilities accounted for 281 citations and more than 10 percent of the underlying violations involved inspections of storage tanks. Some facilities did not have the full three years' worth of records required by the EPA, while others had no records at all. Other citations focused on specific shortcomings, such as not including inspections of tanks' foundations and other physical supports, or failing to document structural deterioration, discharges or accumulations of oil.
Among the 276 citations given to onshore oil production facilities, more than half were for failing to maintain inspection records or collect pertinent environmental information. Specific violations included failing to perform scheduled inspections of aboveground valves and pipelines, and visual inspections of containers, foundations and supports.
Simply having an SPCC Plan is not enough: Your employees must be trained on it
Failing to properly train all workers on the components of your facility's SPCC Plan can also result in liabilities. In the study cited by Environmental Leader, significant portions of the citations issued were for inadequate training of personnel. These included:
- Failure to provide training on the operation and maintenance equipment used to prevent discharges
- Failure to provide training on the pollution control laws, rules and regulations covering the facility
- Failure to provide training on the contents of the facility's SPCC Plan
- Failure to maintain records of training activities
Training-related citations accounted for more than 16 percent of the total at bulk storage facilities. For production facilities, the figure was 18 percent.
A compliant SPCC Plan protects both the environment and your bottom line
Given the scope of potential liabilities facing covered facilities that fail to comply with the EPA's SPCC Rule, including both fines and remediation costs, it seems clear that this is a crucial, if under-appreciated, area of risk management. If your facility may be subject to this rule and you are uncertain about your obligations or how to meet them, it may be time to bring in the experts.
Working with environmental consultants who have experience dealing with the unique regulatory landscape in your region can greatly facilitate all aspects of compliance, from preliminary assessments to ongoing reporting. Please feel free to speak with one of our staff with any questions you may have.
How to Ensure Compliance with Major Regulatory Overhaul Going into Effect in 2015
Industries with a stake in California general stormwater permit—such as manufacturing, electrical generating units, paper products, and commercial facilities, to name a few—should be paying careful attention right now. After a lengthy comment period, the California State Water Resources Control Board has finalized its “Draft NPDES Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater Associated with Industrial Activities.” The board had released the long-awaited draft in 2013, proposing significant changes in the regulation of stormwater discharges from industrial facilities.
The new permit regulations went into effect on July 1, 2015. Now is the time to prepare because the final requirements results in significant changes in the management of stormwater discharges from industrial facilities.
In addition, the new general permit not only captures a larger number of industries, it also imposes a significant number of new compliance requirements. Plus, there are provisions for increased oversight by members of the public and non-governmental organizations. Also, compliance with the new general permit will require facility managers to engage early in the process, and environmental management staff to re-calibrate their storm water management programs.