This past week, I’ve received several questions on the “fuel storage” issue which would affect farmers, so this week I turned to my Extension colleague, Dewey Lienemann who wrote an excellent summary of what this all means. I’ve taken some excerpts from his column and hope this helps answer questions.
In 2009, EPA finalized regulations that will require any farm or ranch with above-ground oil storage capacity of greater than 1,320 gallons to have a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan in place if there is a reasonable expectation a spill would reach waters of the U.S. These Tier I facilities under the current regulations must create a self-certified SPCC plan and have secondary containment available in case of a spill. For farms and ranches with more than 10,000 gallons of such capacity, the Tier II plans must be certified by a professional engineer. Compliance with this regulation could run into the thousands of dollars. Forcing farmers and ranchers to comply with the SPCC rule is an over-burdensome solution in desperate search of a problem that simply does not exist.
SPCC regulations are over thirty years old and were originally intended for the petroleum industry, although EPA contends that agriculture has never been exempt. In 2011, the EPA provided a two-year compliance delay for farmers and ranchers which ends on May 10th of 2013. However, that delay was only for farms established after 2002. Finally, an enforcement delay for the rest of the fiscal year was passed by Congress as part of the 2013 Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government, preventing the EPA from enforcing the rule on farms and ranches until October 1, 2013.
If you do not like this law, it is important farmers and ranchers contact their Senators and Congressmen on the “Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act” (FUELS Act). The bill has been introduced in both the House of Representatives (H.R. 311) as well as the Senate (S. 496). It is time that producers express what they think on this issue.
The FUELS Act raises the Tier I threshold from 1,320-10,000 gallons up to 10,000-42,000 gallons. This move would prevent many farms and ranches from having to comply with this complicated regulation. The FUELS Act would also raise Tier II up from any amount above 10,000 gallons to any amount above 42,000 gallons. While these changes will not completely exempt all farms and ranches, this compromise is a strong step in the right direction.
Finally, Dewey summarized his column with some key points. Tell your senators that you are a good steward of land and water and depend on both. Most importantly bring to them stories of how this will affect or impact your farm or ranch and even your livelihood. Don’t just expect other people to do this and then wonder why nothing happens. Whatever you do, take a moment to write a letter, email, or simply call your Congressman. It could save you a lot of grief and expense!