FUELS Act exempts small storage units from SPCC plan

Nov 1, 2013

A U.S. House of Representative committee on Oct. 29 endorsed the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, which allows the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exempt small farmers and ranchers from maintaining expensive oil storage facilities.

The FUELS Act passed the House in August, 2012, without a dissenting vote, but stalled in the U.S. Senate. It was reintroduced in January by a bipartisan coalition led by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR).

It was voted out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by unanimous consent at the end of October and sent to the House floor for full consideration. Similar language is contained in the House farm bill and as an amendment to the Senate’s Water Resources Development Act.

The EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program requires farm and ranch operations to develop plans if they have above-ground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or below-ground storage capacity of 42,000 gallons or more. That would include requiring farmers and ranchers to construct containment dikes or basins that must retain 110 percent of the fuel.

The House legislation exempts operations with storage capacity of 10,000 gallons or less from needing to develop an SPCC plan. It also raises the self-certification level to up to 20,000 gallons of fuel storage, allowing more operations to self-certify.

Crawford said a University of Arkansas study concluded the FUELS Act could save up to $3.36 billion for U.S. farmers and ranchers at a time when farm revenues are significantly impacted by widespread drought, easing a tremendous financial burden.

“These mandated infrastructure improvements, along with the necessary inspection and certification by a licensed professional engineer, could cost farmers tens of thousands of dollars,” the Arkansas congressman said. “This bill would require regulations be revised to reflect a producer’s spill risk and financial resources.”

Farmers and ranchers already are careful stewards of land and water, Crawford said. “No one has more at stake to protect the environment than those who derive their livelihood from working the land. Commonsense proposals like the FUELS Act will provide family farmers protection from EPA mandates.”

Rep. Mike McIntyre (D- NC) also called for quick action on the bipartisan measure.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hailed the move by the House committee.

“NCBA is pleased to see the exemption level of 10,000 gallons. The language in this bill will keep many of our producers from having to undertake excess costs as a result of the EPA’s over regulation,” said George Scott, NCBA president and a Cody, WY, rancher.

“Under the FUELS Act, the burdens of the SPCC regulations would be greatly reduced, and family farmers and ranchers would be exempted from having to develop and implement costly spill containment plans.” — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent