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Achieving Reasonable Reform

by Mark Lange, National Cotton Council of America

Recently-passed legislation will provide our nation’s farmers and ranchers with more reasonable on-farm fuel storage regulations.

What’s in the legislation?
Before it was signed into law in mid-June by President Obama, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) was overwhelmingly approved by the House (412-4) and Senate (91-7). The WRRDA authorizes the construction of major navigation and flood risk management projects. Of additional significance to agriculture is that the new measure also contains language designed to give farmers and ranchers some relief from EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule on farm storage tanks of fuel and oil.

cottons-agenda-jul1Prior to WRRDA’s passage, SPCC regulations required those operations with more than 1,320 gallons of above-ground fuel and oil storage capacity and could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters of the United States to have spill prevention plans. The new measure increases the thresholds at which farm and ranch operations are required to comply with aspects of the rule. Operations with an aggregate aboveground storage capacity of less than 2,500 gallons are not required to comply with the rule. Operations with aboveground tank storage capacities greater than 2,500 gallons and less than the lesser of 6,000 gallons and the adjustment quantity established by a yet-to-be-completed USDA/EPA study, and no reportable oil discharge history are not required to comply with the rule.

Owners or operators would be able to self-certify SPCC plans for any operation with aggregate aboveground storage capacity less than 20,000 gallons and greater than the lesser of 6,000 gallons and the aforementioned adjustment quantity, and no reportable oil discharge history. A professional engineer will be required to certify a plan on operations where there is an individual aboveground storage capacity greater than 10,000 gallons, an aggregate storage capacity greater than or equal to 20,000 gallons, or a reportable oil discharge history. The law excludes all containers on separate parcels that have a capacity of less than 1,000 gallons from the aggregate storage capacity of a farm. It also excludes all containers holding animal feed ingredients approved for use in livestock feed by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs.

What relief had previously been sought?
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) led efforts to obtain SPCC relief. Crawford introduced the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act. The NCC supported that legislation which would have raised the compliance threshold requirement to a more realistic and practical level and allowed self-certification rather than requiring a detailed plan by a professional engineer. Inhofe added an amendment to the WRRDA legislation to exempt all tanks of 1,000 gallons or less from the rule and to exclude from compliance with the rule all farms with an aggregate tank storage capacity of 2,500 gallons or less. Agricultural organizations, including the NCC, expressed support for these provisions.

Mark Lange is the president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council