Clean Water Act
Congress enacted the Clean Water Act (formerly the Federal Water Pollution Control Act) (CWA) to maintain the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. The CWA is located at
33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq. Select sections of the CWA and its regulations that may apply to petroleum ASTs are included as links from this site. The CWA, and its regulations, contain criteria for preventing and controlling the discharge of oil into the navigable waters of the United States by means of notification and Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans. Click here to link to the SPCC regulations at 40 C.F.R. part 110 and part 112 at the United Stated Government Printing Office (GPO) website. The Oil Pollution Act, enacted in 1990, amended certain portions of the CWA to strengthen and consolidate federal spill removal authority. Click here for a link to the full text of 33 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2720 at the LII website and to the OPA regulations at C.F.R. part 109 and part 112 at the US GPO website. The CWA also contains permitting requirements for discharges of pollutants pursuant to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and stormwater permitting regulations. Click here for a link to the full text of 33 U.S.C. §1311, and 1342 at the LII website and to the NPDES regulations at 40 C.F.R. part 122 at the US GPO website.
Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations (SPCC Plans)
The federal oil pollution prevention regulations revolve around two issues: (1) notification in the event of a discharge, and (2) SPCC Plans. The CWA prohibits the discharge of oil in such quantities as may be harmful into the navigable waters of the United States. "Oil" includes petroleum. A discharge is of a harmful quantity if it (1) violates applicable water quality standards, or (2) causes a film or sheen upon or discoloration of the water or shoreline or causes a sludge or emulsion to be deposited under the water or upon the shoreline. Pursuant to the federal CWA regulations, any person in charge of an onshore facility who has knowledge of a discharge must notify the National Response Center in Washington D.C. The federal regulations define "onshore facility" very broadly to include any facility located in, on, or under any land within the United States. Click here for a link to the notification requirements at 40 C.F.R. part 110 at the US GPO website.
The federal SPCC regulations apply to non-transportation related onshore facilities that store more than 1,320 gallons of oil (or facilities with a single AST storing 660 gallons or more) which, due to location, could reasonably be expected to discharge oil in harmful quantities into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. Click here for a link to the SPCC requirements at 40 C.F.R. part 112 at the US GPO website "Onshore facilities" and "harmful quantities" are discussed above. The "navigable waters of the United States" is also defined very broadly to include lakes, rivers, streams and tributaries. Therefore, if an AST owner is located anywhere near water, it is likely an SPCC Plan will be required. The plan must be prepared within six (6) months of the date the plant begins operation and must be implemented as soon as possible, not to exceed one (1) year. The plan must be reviewed and certified by a professional engineer. The plan must contain provisions for containment and spill prevention procedures. In addition, the regulations require tank material and construction to be compatible with the material stored within. All tanks must have a secondary means of containment. The integrity of the ASTs must be tested periodically and the outside of the tank frequently observed for signs of leakage. Alarms are also required to notify personnel of a potential leak. The AST owner must maintain a copy of the plan at its facility. The plan must be amended within six (6) months whenever there is a change in facility design, construction, operation, or maintenance that materially affects the potential for discharge. In addition, the AST owner must review and evaluate the plan at least once every three (3) years and amend the plan within six (6) months of that review to include more effective prevention and control technology.
The regulations also require any facility tank car and tank truck loading and unloading rack to have some containment measure designed to hold at least the maximum capacity of the tank car or truck. Warning lights must be provided to prevent departure of the truck before transfer lines are disconnected. In addition, the truck should be closely examined for leakage prior to filling and departure.
Inspections must be in accordance with written procedures that are made a part of the SPCC plan. Reports must be maintained for a period of three (3) years. In addition to security, plant personnel must be instructed in the operation and maintenance of equipment to prevent the discharge of oil. An AST owner will need to routinely brief its personnel in these procedures.
Oil Pollution Act
The Oil Pollution Act requires an additional plan for a "worst case discharge" for facilities that could reasonably be expected to cause "substantial harm" to the environment by discharging oil into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines. Facilities that have the potential for causing substantial harm to the environment include:
Click here for a link to the full text of 33 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2720 and 33 U.S.C. §1321 at the LII website and to the OPA regulations at 40 C.F.R. part 109 and part 112 at the US GPO website. For facilities that do not have the potential for causing substantial harm, the regulations require owners and operators to complete and maintain a certification stating the facility does not fall within the above criteria. A copy of this certification form is included in an appendix to the regulations.
- Non-transportation related facilities with a total oil storage capacity greater than or equal to 42,000 gallons where operations include over-water transfers of oil;
- Lack of adequate secondary containment at facilities with a total oil storage capacity grater than or equal to one million gallons;
- Proximity to fish and wildlife and sensitive environments at facilities with a total oil storage capacity greater than or equal to one million gallons;
- Proximity to public drinking water intakes at facilities with a total storage oil capacity greater than or equal to one million gallons; and
- facilities that have experienced reportable oil spills in an amount greater than or equal to 10,000 gallons within the past five (5) years and that have a total oil storage capacity greater than or equal to one million gallons.
The CWA prohibits the discharge of any pollutant except in compliance with certain water quality standards. In order to insure compliance with these standards, the CWA established the NPDES permit requirements. Click here for a link to the full text of 33 U.S.C. §§ 1311, and 1342 at the LII website and to the NPDES regulations at 40 C.F.R. part 122 at the US GPO website. Pursuant to the NPDES regulations, any person who discharges or proposes to discharge pollutants into navigable waters of the United States from a point source must obtain a permit.