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Top Ten SPCC Factoids and Misnomers

Posted: November 17th, 2020

Authors: Paul H. 

We have seen a significant increase in requests for preparing and reviewing Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, and it prompted ALL4 to share our top ten list of SPCC Plan factoids and misnomers regarding onshore facilities:



  1. Five-year reviews need to be conducted by a P.E.

Incorrect.  40 CFR §112.5(b) requires the owner/operator to review and evaluate the SPCC Plan once every five years, but §112.5(c) only requires a P.E. to certify “any technical amendments.”  Technical amendments include adding or removing containers, modifying piping or secondary containment systems, changing products stored or revising SOPs.  If there are no technical amendments, the owner/operator can self-certify the plan per §112.5(b).  Be careful, though, as this assumes the owner/operator is familiar with the SPCC regulations and regulatory changes that may have transpired since the previous review.

  1. The SPCC Plan has to follow the regulations sequentially

Incorrect.  40 CFR §112.7 states that if the SPCC Plan does not follow the sequence specified in the regulations, it must include a section cross-referencing the regulation requirements to the applicable section of the plan.  Our experience indicates that most SPCC Plans either follow the regulations sequentially, making for a confusing and non-functional document, or they don’t follow the regulations but also don’t provide a cross-reference, making the document effectively non-compliant.  We prefer to not follow the regulations sequentially and to provide a cross-reference table.  Remember, one of the main reasons for an SPCC Plan is to provide urgent guidance in the event of a release, and who wants to fumble with a clunky plan in an emergency?
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  1. All SPCC Plans have to be certified by a P.E.

Incorrect.  40 CFR §112.3(g) allows the owner/operator of a Tier I or Tier II qualified facility to self-certify their own SPCC Plan.  Generally, Tier I facilities have no individual aboveground oil storage container greater than 5,000 gallons and Tier II facilities have an aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity of 10,000 gallons or less.  To be qualified, regardless of Tier, the facility cannot have had a single discharge exceeding 1,000 gallons or two discharges exceeding 42 gallons within any twelve-month period in the three years prior to the SPCC Plan certification.

  1. An out-of-state P.E. can certify an SPCC Plan

Depends on who you ask, so be careful! Although U.S. EPA has confirmed this position in a published FAQ, we believe there are two very important caveats.  First, 40 CFR §112.7(j) requires the SPCC Plan to include a discussion of any applicable more stringent State rules, regulations and guidelines.  Therefore, the certifying P.E. needs to be well versed in the home state regulations.  Second, the state-based engineering board may preclude a P.E. from applying his/her out-of-state seal or may require certain prerequisites.  We have made inquiries to state-based engineering boards in the past and have been notified that such practices are not exempt (i.e., it’s not allowed), but we have also seen instances where state regulations allow short-term exemptions if the entire project is less than a pre-determined period of time (e.g., PA Engineer Registration Law, Section 5b – 30 day exemption).

  1. The 1,320 gallon requirement for SPCC Plans only includes ASTs

Incorrect.  40 CFR §112.1(d)(5) exempts any container with an oil storage capacity of less than 55 gallons, so this effectively includes items such as 55-gallon drums, hydraulic elevator reservoirs, oil-filled electrical transformers and mobile refuelers.  See below for more discussion on the latter items.

  1. Oil-filled operational equipment does not need secondary containment

Correct, but be careful! Oil-filled operational equipment, by definition (40 CFR §112.2), includes items such as hydraulic systems, lubricating systems, gear boxes, machining coolant systems and transformers.  These units do not require secondary containment if the alternate requirements at 40 CFR §112.7(k)(2) are met and no reportable discharge history has occurred (40 CFR §112.7(k)(1)).  The alternate requirements include an inspection and monitoring program, a written commitment of resources and an Oil Spill Contingency Plan compliant with 40 CFR Part 109 (hmmm…a plan within a plan??).  Our experience indicates that most SPCC Plans for facilities with some oil-filled operational equipment include those items in the oil quantity total, but they do not go so far as to prepare the Part 109 Oil Spill Contingency Plan.

  1. Dual-walled ASTs meet the secondary containment SPCC requirements

Correct, but you’re not done! There are three points to address here; the general secondary containment requirements (40 CFR §112.7(c)), the sized secondary containment requirements (40 CFR §112.8(c)(2)) and the testing and inspection requirements (40 CFR §112.8(c)(6)).  U.S. EPA provided clarity on these issues in a memo issued April 29, 1992 (and amended August 9, 2002).  In this memo, U.S. EPA clarified that both the general and sized secondary containment requirements can be met with shop-fabricated, UL-listed, dual-walled ASTs.  Regarding inspection and testing, the owner must inspect the outside of the inner tank (i.e., the interstitial space).  This is typically accomplished via an inspection port (in conjunction with dip stick, camera or visual level indicator) or remote liquid level sensor.  In our experience, most facilities implement good environmental stewardship by using dual-walled ASTs, but they neglect to check the interstitial space on a regular basis (most common reason is that they didn’t know it was required).

  1. SPCC regulations don’t apply to Motive Power Containers and Mobile Refuelers

Correct and incorrect, respectively. By definition (40 CFR §112.2), Motive Power Containers are any onboard bulk storage containers used primarily to power the movement of a motor vehicle, not to store or transfer for further distribution.  These containers are exempt from the SPCC requirements via 40 CFR §112.1(d)(7), including not having to include the capacity of such containers when determining overall facility capacity ((40 CFR §112.1(d)(2)(ii)).  Mobile Refuelers, on the other hand, are bulk storage containers onboard a vehicle that are used solely to store and transport fuel for transfer into another vehicle, equipment, vessel or storage container.  These units are subject to the general secondary containment requirements in 40 CFR §112.7(c), but not the sized secondary containment requirements at 40 CFR §112.8(c)(2).  The general secondary containment requirements address the most likely discharge scenario and can include items such as dikes, berms, drip pans, sumps, collection systems, drainage systems, retention ponds, weirs, booms or sorbent materials.  And for the record, self-contained belly tanks on emergency generators (aka “gen-sets”) are not Motive Power Containers or Mobile Refuelers; they are bulk oil storage containers requiring full compliance with applicable secondary containment requirements.

  1. Grease traps are exempt from the SPCC regulations

Correct, but be careful! U.S. EPA has clarified that grease traps themselves are eligible for the wastewater treatment exemption at 40 CFR §112.1(d)(6); however, a separate container equal to or greater than 55 gallons storing the removed grease is subject to the SPCC requirements.  Furthermore, the transfer of oily wastewater and sludge from an exempt grease trap, using a vacuum truck, is subject to the general containment requirements of 40 CFR §112.7(c).  And yes, U.S. EPA considers animal fats and vegetable oils to be subject to the SPCC regulations (40 CFR §112.2, 40 CFR §112.12, EPA Fact Sheet 550-F-07-002).

  1. The SPCC Plan gets submitted to U.S. EPA

Incorrect, and here’s the clarity. 40 CFR §112.3(e) requires the owner to maintain a copy of the SPCC Plan at the facility and to have the plan available for U.S. EPA’s on-site review during normal working hours.  In accordance with 40 CFR §112.4(a), if the facility has released more than 1,000 gallons of oil in a single discharge or more than 42 gallons of oil in each of two discharges occurring within any twelve month period, the owner must submit numerous details about the discharge event and the facility to U.S. EPA, and although much of this information is likely included in the SPCC Plan, the required details in 40 CFR §112.4(a) don’t include the SPCC Plan itself.  And in accordance with §112.4(c), any information submitted to U.S. EPA must also be submitted to the appropriate state agency in charge of oil pollution control activities.

ALL4 hopes you find these factoids and misnomers helpful to your professional practice and to assisting the regulated community with achieving their environmental compliance goals.  Feel free to share and comment, or contact Paul Hagerty at (610) 422-1168 or phagerty@all4inc.com to discuss further.
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