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Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Regulation

Quick Tips #317

To help prevent the discharge of oil from non-transportation related onshore and offshore facilities into U.S. navigable waters or adjoining shorelines, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires non-exempt facilities to prepare spill prevention, control and countermeasures (SPCC) plans. The applicable regulation and requirements are found in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 112.

The goal of the SPCC regulation is to prevent oil from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines, and to contain discharges of oil. The EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters. The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead response agency for spills in coastal waters and deep water ports.

What is oil under SPCC?

Under the SPCC regulation, the term oil includes oil of any kind or in any form including, but not limited to:

Petroleum-Based Oils Non-Petroleum-Based Oils Oil-Containing Products
Gasoline Animal-based oil Oil-based paint
Diesel fuel Vegetable oil Oil-based thinner
Motor oil Biofuel Oil-based ink
Heating fuel   Petroleum-based parts washer solvent
Jet fuel   Roofing tar
Aviation fuel    
Hydraulic fluid    

What facilities are subject to the SPCC regulation?

A facility is subject to the SPCC regulation if it meets the following three criteria:

  1. The facility must be non-transportation related;
  2. The facility must have a combined above-ground storage capacity greater than 1320 gallons or a buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons; and
  3. There must be a reasonable potential for a discharge into or upon U.S. navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.

The SPCC rule applies to owners or operators of non-transportation related facilities who drill, produce, store, process, refine, transfer, distribute, use or consume oil or oil products that meet at least one of the capacity thresholds and have the potential to discharge oil to U.S. navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.

Definition of navigable waters

Navigable waters are defined in section 502(7) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (i.e., Clean Water Act). They include all waters used in interstate or foreign commerce, all interstate waters including wetlands, and all intrastate waters, such as lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes or natural ponds. This term is broadly defined under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, and essentially means any natural surface water.

What is a non-transportation related facility?

Examples of non-transportation related facilities include, but are not limited to, fixed onshore and offshore oil well drilling facilities; mobile onshore and offshore oil well drilling platforms, barges, trucks or other mobile facilities; fixed onshore and offshore oil production structures, platforms, derricks and rigs; mobile onshore and offshore oil production facilities; refining or storage facilities; certain waste treatment facilities; loading racks or areas; highway vehicles, railroad cars and pipeline systems used to transport oil exclusively within the confines of a non-transportation related facility; and industrial, commercial, agricultural or public facilities that store, use, produce, gather, process or consume oil or oil products.

Oil storage capacity

Oil storage includes all containers greater than or equal to 55 gallons that store oil at a facility. When calculating the oil storage capacity at a facility, the following must be taken into account: tanks, drums, containers, transformers, mobile/portable totes, oil-filled equipment, and pipelines and machinery lines that carry oil. When determining the oil storage capacity, the maximum volume (capacity), not the actual amount of oil that is in the container at any particular time, must be used.

Determining if a facility could reasonably discharge oil into navigable waters

When determining if a facility could reasonably discharge oil into navigable waters, factors that should be taken into account include:

  • The location of the facility relative to storm or sanitary sewers, streams, ponds, ditches, wetlands, mud flats, sand flats or farm tile drain systems;
  • The volume of stored material;
  • The distance to navigable waters or adjoining shorelines;
  • Worst case weather conditions that would affect the movement of releases; and
  • Surface drainage patterns, surface gradients, land contours and soil types present at the facility and surrounding areas.

When determining if a facility could reasonably discharge oil into navigable waters, according to the SPCC regulation, man-made features such as equipment, dikes, levees or other structures that would restrain, hinder, contain or prevent an oil discharge cannot be taken into account.

Plan contents and certification

A spill prevention, control and countermeasures plan must discuss how the facility meets the requirements for oil spill prevention and containment. The plan must detail in writing the equipment, workforce and steps required to prevent, control and mitigate an oil discharge. The general requirements for SPCC plans are located in 40 CFR 112.7.

Preparation of the SPCC plan is the responsibility of the facility owner or operator, or it can be prepared by an engineer or consultant, but it must be certified by a registered Professional Engineer. By certifying the SPCC plan, the Professional Engineer attests that:

  • He/she is familiar with the requirements of 40 CFR Part 112;
  • The engineer or their agent has visited and examined the facility;
  • The plan has been prepared in accordance with good engineering practices;
  • Procedures for required inspections and testing have been established; and
  • The plan is adequate for the facility.

If the facility stores less than 10,000 gallons of oil, it may qualify for self-certification of the SPCC plan.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Are spill prevention, control and countermeasures plans only required for facilities meeting oil storage requirements?

A: Not necessarily. In some cases, facilities may be required to prepare SPCC plans if materials on site do not meet the definition of oils but there is a potential to discharge into U.S. navigable waters. To determine if a facility needs to prepare a plan, contact your regional EPA office.

Q: What is a harmful quantity of discharged oil?

A: harmful quantity is any quantity of discharged oil that violates state water quality standards, causes a film or sheen on the water’s surface or leaves sludge or emulsion beneath the surface. This regulation is commonly known as the “sheen” rule.


40 CFR Part 112

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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