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SPOTLIGHT
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Farmers, ranchers should heed EPA deadline

Published on -3/14/2013, 10:52 AM

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Kansas farmers, ranchers and landowners: The deadline to file a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plan looms just around the corner. As of May 10, any farmer, rancher or landowner who has petroleum products of 1,320 gallons or more, in above-ground tanks 55 gallons or greater, must have a spill prevention and countermeasures plan in place as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

A plan is not required if storage is less than 1,320 gallons.

Petroleum-based products include typical farm and ranch fuels and lubricants including gasoline, off and on-road diesel fuel, hydraulic and crop oil. This does not include fertilizer, herbicide or insecticide.

Farmers and ranchers who do not implement these EPA containment requirements and have no plan if a spill occurs, would be in violation of the law, says Steve Swaffar, Kansas Farm Bureau Natural Resources director.

"Such action could lead to violations and the potential for financial penalties," Swaffar noted. "Fines could amount to $10,000 per day, per violation."

The rule for containment of petroleum spills dates back to the Clean Water Act of 1973.

"Today, we're looking at the requirement of a spill plan as well, and that's the newest part of the rule," Swaffar said.

The intent is to ensure petroleum products do not reach surface water, wells or other water resources. Spills could also impact a farm or ranch's profit margin.

There is no specific blueprint for the ideal containment system. Some farmers, ranchers and landowners enlist the help of engineering firms to help them implement a plan for their individual operation.

"What you typically see in rural areas are earthen berms made of compacted soil with some sort of crushed rock or shavings on top of the compacted soil," Swaffar said.

Other products used for containment include concrete or metal.

"It simply has to hold the petroleum in should you encounter a natural disaster or an accidental spill," Swaffar noted.

Should a farmer or rancher experience a petroleum spill and have it contained what is their responsibility for removal of the product?

In the case of such spills, it is up to the farmer or rancher to dispose of the product properly, Swaffar explained. Local authorities must be notified and the petroleum product along with any contaminated soil must be removed.

The deadline to file a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plan is fast approaching. The Environmental Protection Agency can come out to farms and ranches in Kansas, and across the country, to conduct inspections.

"You have to ask yourself, 'Do I want to be that farm that's inspected and not in compliance?' " Swaffar said. " 'Do I want to deal with the civil penalties and the publicity associated with not being in compliance?' "

Attempts have been made to exempt agriculture from the SPCC rule without success. The deadline has been extended three times.

The reality is that the containment aspect of the rule has been in place for almost 25 years, Swaffar said. As producers look at future petroleum storage projects they should factor in compliance with SPCC.

John Schlageck, Hoxie, is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansan who writes for the Kansas Farm Bureau.

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