Spill control plans have grown in detail and length since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began requiring them in 1973, said Brian Savage, a consultant who specializes in devising the plans for fuel oil dealers and other businesses.
‘Over the past forty years, spill plans for fuel oil dealers have grown from three or four pages to upwards of fifty pages,” said Savage, president of Savage Associates Inc., Watchung, N.J.
The rule requiring spill plans ‘ officially ‘Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure” plans, or SPCC for short ‘ has been subject to various interpretations over time, Savage said. That is the main reason for the increased detail and length of the plans, he said.
The rule includes requirements for oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response to prevent oil discharges to navigable waters and adjoining shorelines, the EPA states on its website. It requires facilities to ‘prepare, amend, and implement” SPCC plans. (For details on the rule and what it requires, visit the EPA online: http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/index.htm.)
Fuel oil dealers may update their plans and make control and containment improvements to their properties periodically or regularly. ‘Any improvements you do regarding these [SPCC] measures should be addressed with your insurance company,” Savage advised.
Two fuel oil dealers that do so are Fredericks Fuel & Heating Service, Oak Ridge, N.J., and F.C. Haab Co., Philadelphia, Pa., Savage said. Both dealers have made a number of updates to their plans and corresponding improvements on their properties in accordance with SPCC and other regulations, Savage said.
The actions can include preventative maintenance, improving spill prevention and containment, and tank inspection. The fuel oil dealers keep their insurance providers apprised of improvements, Savage said, with the hope that the upgrades will weigh in their favor when time comes to discuss insurance renewal and the cost of monthly premiums.
But that can depend on a number of variables, not the least of which is the state of the insurance market. After being notified this spring that premiums for Fredericks Fuel & Heating’s existing coverage would increase more than 20 percent, Mark Fredericks said, ‘The insurance market stiffened up, I think.” Fredericks added, ‘I don’t shop this every year” ‘ meaning he didn’t routinely seek to review and reconsider his company’s insurance annually. But in light of the pending increase, he decided to do just that.
Working with an independent agent, Scott Rothstein of Vreeland Insurance, Rockaway, N.J., Fredericks ended up switching to Energi, a reinsurance company in Peabody, Mass., that specializes in programs for fuel distribution and fuel transport, along with other energy-related businesses, according to its website. Fredericks said the premiums still represented an increase over what his company had been paying, but less of an increase than was to be levied by the previous insurance provider. The oil dealer’s SPCC plan, as well as a state-required plan, and documented performance of safety drills, contributed to the securing of a lesser increase, Fredericks and Rothstein said.
Savage, the consultant, pointed out that complying with the SPCC rule can be complicated by a federal regulatory structure that consists of regional enforcement authorities, which sometimes leads to regional differences in interpretation of the rule.
‘We’re hoping that every region starts interpreting and enforcing the same way,” Savage said. In addition, each state has spill containment and prevention requirements.
Savage said that local or regional events can affect enforcement priorities of both federal and state regulators. Hurricane Sandy, the ‘super storm” that struck the Northeast on Oct. 29, 2012, causing widespread damage, has prompted certain regulators to focus on measures to counteract flooding, he said.
‘We have to work a lot harder on flood issues,” Savage said, ‘especially on above-ground storage tanks.” In some cases, state regulators reacting to Hurricane Sandy are focusing on containment, Savage said.
‘They want to know that if something like Sandy happens again it will not result in the same types of damage and disruption ‘ tanks floating, tanks breaking away from piping, spillage occurring,” Savage said. He emphasized that these regulatory efforts are ‘not written in the Federal Register.” Rather, he said, ‘Some states and certain federal regions are asking that these issues be addressed.”
Generally, federal regulators are concerned about surface runoff from a spill entering into a waterway, Savage said, while states tend to be more concerned about spills in which fuel penetrates the ground, with potential to enter the water table.
Another feature of state requirements is that they usually are based on the volume of fuel that an operation stores at a site, Savage said. For example, in New Jersey, a facility that stores more than 200,000 gallons must have a ‘discharge prevention control and countermeasure plan,” Savage said.
On occasion, an operator might decide to dispose of one or more storage tanks because a site has more capacity than is needed, Savage observed.
‘Don’t ever do that,” Savage said. ‘Once you remove a tank from your property, it’s hell to get a planning board or zoning board to allow you to put a tank back.”
The EPA does not allow an operator to disconnect the piping, empty the tank, and leave it as is, unused, pending possible return to service later, Savage said. Instead, the EPA requires the operator to disconnect the tank, cut a hole in the side, and clean it out, Savage said.
If a time comes when the tank is needed and the fuel oil dealer wants to put it back to use, that process can be started by notifying the EPA and then following the applicable codes and standards, including the American Petroleum Institute’s API 653, Savage said.