Is your facility’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan due for review? The SPCC regulations require that SPCC Plans be reviewed at least once every five years, whether or not there have been changes at the facility. Make your next review easier by following these four tips.
Perform Brief Reviews Annually
SPCC Plans must be reviewed at least once every five years, but they are also supposed to be updated when there is a change to the oil storage at a facility. Oftentimes plans aren’t updated when changes are made at the facility, and changes are left to be caught during the next five-year review. Completing a brief review of your SPCC Plan annually can help you keep your plan current, and reduces the burden of catching changes during the five-year review. You’ll also appreciate an up-to-date SPCC Plan when you need to use it during a spill event.
Accurate Data Collection
Inspecting each of your facility’s oil sources is the most time-consuming part of reviewing and updating the SPCC Plan, but it’s also the most important information to accurately collect. Electronic data collection on tablets and smartphones makes the process more efficient and accurate, and it is becoming more common. Mobile apps that tie into GIS programs allow for quick data collection, and they have advanced features like recording locations and geotagging photos of oil sources. Streamlining data collection is especially important if you have a large facility or your oil storage changes frequently. Accurate data collection reduces follow-up and saves you time and money.
Streamline the SPCC Plan
Many SPCC Plans are prepared as regulatory compliance documents, cluttered with tables, text, and figures that aren’t easily reviewed or updated. While the SPCC Plan is a regulatory compliance document at its core, having a smart, simple plan makes it much easier to review and update, while still containing the information required by the SPCC regulations. One way to simplify your SPCC Plan is to use one table that summarizes all of your facility’s oil sources. Avoid duplicating information across multiple tables. You may also consider putting key facility-specific information into one section of the plan text. SPCC regulation requirements that can be met with more boilerplate language can be built into the remaining text portions of the SPCC Plan. It will be much easier to update your SPCC Plan if you only have to update information in one location.
Hang on to Your Documentation
Certain documentation like inspection and testing records must be maintained for at least three years. However, three years may not be long enough if your plan is being reviewed every five years. If your oil storage tanks are large enough, integrity testing by a certified inspector is required every 20 years. Hanging on to that inspection documentation is important because when review time comes, your reviewer will likely be looking to verify when the last integrity testing occurred. Keep records of any site improvements or upgrades to items related to your oil sources, such as grading plans for building expansions, cutsheets for secondary containment structures and oil/water separators, drawings of floor drain routes, and drawings and capacity calculations for oil containment systems. Attaching this documentation to the SPCC Plan as an Appendix is a good way to make sure it is readily available come review time.
4 Tips to Simplify Your Next SPCC Plan Review is Part III of the SCS Engineers SPCC series.
About the Author: Jared Omernik has 12 years of experience helping clients manage and maintain their facilities’ environmental compliance. He has extensive experience preparing SPCC Plans that meet his clients’ needs. Contact Jared or one of SCS’s compliance professionals near you.
Do you know how much oil you store in aboveground containers at your facilities? If you have more than 1,320 gallons at a facility, you may need an SPCC Plan. SPCC stands for Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure, and it is a federal rule (40 CFR 112 in the Federal Register) designed to prevent oil-based products from entering navigable waterways of the United States. But it’s about more than just compliance. It’s an important tool to help you limit your liability.
As a utility leader, your focus is to deliver electricity to your customers; however, facilities covered under the SPCC Rule are subject to inspections and potential enforcement actions if your practices are out of compliance.
The 1,320-gallon threshold isn’t the only requirement for an SPCC Plan. The SPCC Rule only counts oil storage containers with a capacity of 55 gallons or more. Many electric utility facilities will meet the oil storage threshold, including substations, storage yards, power plants, and operations and maintenance facilities.
Another criterion is that a facility must reasonably be expected to discharge oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines of the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) does not define what “reasonably be expected” means. Instead, the responsibility is on the facility owner or operator to determine the potential for discharge. In reality, it’s usually easy to think of a scenario where spilled oil could reach a waterway. Even if you think a spill would never reach the stream, what if there was a significant rain event that washed away spilled oil on the ground through a storm sewer? Often “reasonably be expected” is not challenged, and it’s best to err on the side of caution.
It’s time to prepare an SPCC Plan. The Plan summarizes your facility’s oil sources, identifies spill response coordinators, and outlines your spill prevention measures and spill response procedures. There are three options: 1) Prepare the Plan yourself; 2) Use a third-party provider to prepare your Plan; or 3) Have a licensed professional engineer (PE) prepare your Plan. The option you choose depends on how much oil you store at your facility and your working knowledge of the SPCC Rule.
If your facility has less than 10,000 gallons of oil and no single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you may prepare your own SPCC Plan, following the USEPA’s Tier I qualified facility template.
You can download the USEPA’s Tier I qualified facility template here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/tier1template.pdf. It is the cheapest way to comply with the SPCC Rule. You need to be familiar with the SPCC Rule’s requirements to complete a self-certified plan. You must also follow all of the requirements without deviation.
If your facility has less than 10,000 gallons of oil and a single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you qualify under the USEPA’s Tier II qualified facility category. The USEPA does not provide a plan template for a Tier II qualified facility. You can still prepare the Plan yourself, or you may hire a third party or PE to prepare the Plan for you. If you prepare the Plan yourself, you must still follow all of the requirements precisely without deviating from them.
If your facility has greater than 10,000 gallons of oil storage, you must have a licensed PE prepare and certify your facility’s SPCC Plan. The Rule allows PEs the flexibility to deviate from certain requirements, so you may decide you want a PE to prepare and certify your plan for your Tier I or Tier II qualified facility.
An SPCC Plan is about more than just compliance. An SPCC Plan contains important information that will be critical if you have an oil spill. The Plan contains inspection forms and protocols that help you maintain your oil sources and prevent a spill from happening in the first place. It identifies the single point of contact, an “SPCC Coordinator” for the facility. If there is a spill, the Plan contains steps to contain and control the spill initially, and the proper contacts to notify internally and externally.
The SPCC Rule requires oil-handling personnel to receive annual training to respond to spills in their work areas properly, and the SPCC Plan contains the material that must be covered in training. The SPCC Plan also contains forms for you to document training, plan reviews and updates, and spill notifications.
Work with your staff to determine if the SPCC Rule applies to you. An SPCC Plan is a required document for certain facilities to help you comply with the SPCC Rule and gain the benefits of having a plan in place. But more than that, it’s a practical document designed to assist with training and inspections while serving the function to help prevent spills from occurring. And if spills do occur, an SPCC Plan provides the guidance to help control the spill and limit your liability.
Read Part II – Are You Ready to Respond to an Industrial Spill?
About the Author: Jared Omernik has 12 years of experience helping electric utilities comply with environmental regulations, including helping utility owners and operators build and review SPCC Plans and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs).
The industry standard SP001 is incorporated into many Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans is now updated. How does it affect your facility’s SPCC Plan?
The Steel Tank Institute (STI) recently released an updated version of SP001 – Standard for the Inspection of Aboveground Storage Tanks. This document is the industry standard used in most SPCC Plans for inspection guidelines and integrity testing for shop-fabricated aboveground storage tanks. In a typical SPCC Plan prepared by SCS Engineers, your monthly and annual inspection forms, and tank integrity testing frequency requirements are based on the criteria provided in SP001.
No. We recommend incorporating the updated inspection forms during your next SPCC Plan Amendment or 5-year renewal.
The inspection criteria have been simplified, and more flexibility is allowed with the revised inspection forms. This will help make your inspection process easier and of higher quality.
Need help sorting out the details of the revised standard, or have an SPCC Plan that needs amending or is due for a 5-year review? Contact , and we will help you stay on top of your SPCC needs with offices nationwide.
Imagine that one of your employees comes and tells you that a 100-gallon spill just took place at your facility and it is flowing swiftly toward a storm sewer on your property.
Suddenly all eyes are on you. What you do next will show your leadership and skill at addressing the issue and limiting the company’s liability. Are you ready to be the hero, or is spill preparedness the one item that just keeps slipping down your to-do list?
Use the techniques recommended in Chris Jimieson’s latest article to make your spill response training engaging and interactive for staff handling oil. Spill preparedness becomes part of your routine and you’re ready to be the hero if a spill occurs.
By Chris Jimieson, PE and Jared Omernik, PE
Do you know how much oil and fuel you store in aboveground containers at your facility? If you have more than 1,320 gallons, you may need an SPCC Plan. What is an SPCC Plan? SPCC stands for Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure, and it is a federal rule (40 CFR 112 in the Federal Register) designed to prevent oil-based products from entering navigable waterways of the U.S. But it’s about more than just compliance. It’s an important tool to help you limit your liability.
Facilities covered under the SPCC rule are subject to agency inspections and potential enforcement actions if the facility’s practices are found to be out of compliance.
Does the SPCC rule apply to me?
The 1,320-gallon threshold isn’t the only trigger for an SPCC Plan. One of the keys to take away from the SPCC rule is that it does not count oil/fuel storage in containers less than 55-gallons in size. Another trigger is that a facility must reasonably be expected to discharge oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines of the U.S.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not define what “reasonably be expected” means. Rather, the responsibility is on the facility owner or operator to determine the potential for discharge. In reality, it’s usually easy to think of a scenario where spilled oil could reach a waterway. Even if you think a spill would never reach the stream, what if there was a significant rain event that washed away spilled oil on the ground through a storm sewer? Often the “reasonably to be expected” is not challenged, so it is best to err on the side of caution.
The SPCC rule applies to my facility, now what?
There are three options: 1) Prepare the plan yourself. 2) Use a third party provider to prepare your plan, or 3) Have a licensed professional engineer develop your plan. The option you choose depends on how much oil you store at your facility and your working knowledge of the SPCC rule.
If you have less than 10,000 gallons of oil and no single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you may be able to prepare your own SPCC Plan, following the EPA’s Tier I qualified facility template.
You can download the EPA’s Tier I qualified facility template here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/tier1template.pdf. The template is the least expensive way to comply with the SPCC rule. However, some users feel it is a little confusing.
If you have less than 10,000 gallons of oil and have a single aboveground oil storage container with a capacity greater than 5,000 U.S. gallons, you could qualify under the EPA’s Tier 2 qualified facility category. The EPA does not provide a plan template for a Tier II qualified facility. You can still prepare the plan yourself, or you may hire a third party or professional engineer to develop the plan for you.
If your facility has greater than 10,000 gallons of oil storage, you must have a licensed professional engineer prepare your facility’s SPCC Plan.
Working on an SPCC Plan with a Third Party Provider
If you decide to work with a third party provider, here are some things you can expect as part of the process. The provider will conduct a facility site visit to review the oil storage. Prepare to have a staff member familiar with the oil storage escort the provider to each of the sources. The provider will ask questions about spill prevention features at each source location, including secondary containment, overfill protection, and interstitial monitoring, if applicable.
After visiting the oil sources, the provider may ask to see any available tank data such as specifications, current inspection protocol, and tank repair or integrity testing documentation. You can eliminate follow-ups and help keep costs down by having this data available for review.
Following the site visit, the provider will prepare an SPCC Plan that you should review for accuracy before implementation.
The Value of an SPCC Plan for Your Facility
An SPCC Plan is about more than just compliance. An SPCC Plan contains inspection forms and protocols that can help to prevent a spill at your facility. It identifies the single point of contact, an “SPCC Coordinator” for the facility. If there is a spill, the Plan contains steps necessary to contain the spill initially and control the discharge, and the proper contacts to notify internally and externally.
The SPCC rule requires all oil-handling personnel receive annual training to respond appropriately to spills in their work areas. The annual training requirement is another key element to spill prevention, but also covers aspects on how to properly take control and countermeasure actions in the event of an oil spill.
Work with your staff to determine if the SPCC rule applies to you. An SPCC Plan is a required document for certain facilities to help you comply with the SPCC rule and gain the benefits of having a plan in place. However, more than that, it is a practical document that’s designed to assist with training and inspections and to help prevent spills from occurring. Moreover, if spills do occur, an SPCC Plan provides the guidance to help control the spill and limit your liability.
Chris Jimieson and Jared Omernik have more than 26 years’ combined experience helping various types of clients with environmental compliance. Chris and Jared have extensive experience helping customers build and review SPCC and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) projects. For questions about the SPCC rule or how to comply, Contact Chris at
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Are you approaching the required five-year review/plan re-certification for your facility’s Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan? Even if you’ve been through several cycles of performing five-year tune-ups on your SPCC Plan, you can make your next review easier and prepare yourself for future SPCC Plan re-certifications if you follow these five tips.
Late renewals are a consistent pain point for many companies. To avoid being late with your next re-certification, start your review six months before your SPCC Plan is due for its 5-year review. If you are conducting the review internally, start by identifying the person who will be doing the review. If you are using a third party, this approach will help you go through the proposal/contracting process, so you are ready to conduct the actual review and complete the re-certification before the Plan expires.
Simplify Data Collection
One of the keys to a compliant SPCC Plan is to collect accurate data in the field about your facility’s oil sources. Streamlined data collection is of particular importance if you have a large facility or your oil storage changes regularly. The key to simplifying data collection is to make sure your reviewer has organized information to evaluate the compliance aspects of each source. Accurate data collection can limit the follow-up required from plan preparers to verify information, as well as minimize the potential for discrepancies. Moreover, particularly useful if a third party is auditing your Plan or if it is in review during an EPA inspection.
Reduce Redundancy with a Summary Table
One way to simplify your Plan is to use an oil source summary table to cover as much information as possible. A table can include each oil source and the aspects of how the oil source is compliant with the SPCC Rule. There may be areas in the Plan where you need to provide additional text discussion regarding oil sources to explain a compliance matter. In general, try to avoid duplicating information within the Plan.
Watch Out for Commonly Overlooked Areas
While secondary containment and overfill protection are key elements to review at each oil source, some reviewers forget to measure the size of containment structures. Dimensions need to be carefully measured in the field to verify and show sufficient secondary containment capacity in your facility’s SPCC Plan.
Another commonly overlooked area is facility drainage; specifically the overland flow in the proximity of each oil source, which is key to determining the potential receptors where spilled product can travel. These receptors could be storm sewers, ditches, wetlands, or waterways. You can discuss the protection of these receptors during your facility’s annual SPCC training. Swift action and concise communication during a spill can help limit your liability.
Use Targeted Annual Training
Many companies struggle to comply with the annual training requirement. One of the tripping points is trying to train all employees who handle oil for example. To avoid this pitfall, implement a tiered training program so you can focus the training content based on an employee’s responsibility level.
Spill recognition and notification through proper internal channels to get a spill cleaned up is an essential message for employees that occasionally handle oil. These employees could also be trained to aid with the initial control and response to a spill. A second tier may include team members who manage the SPCC Plan; they have additional responsibilities such as inspections of oil sources and spill reporting.
By Chris Jimieson, SCS Engineers
Chris Jimieson has over 17 years of experience supporting industrial, commercial, military, federal, state, municipal, and solid waste companies with environmental compliance. He has extensive experience building and reviewing SPCC and Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) and manages compliance assignments, providing computer-based training modules to meet employer training needs. Contact Chris at or 608-216-7367.