Today we are here to discuss the EPA’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule. As many of you know, I have been following this rule for several years and have written to the Agency numerous times, mainly to express concern with the direction the program was taking. It is very important that we look at this program objectively. No one in this room wants more oil spills. In fact, those who are with us today to express concerns about this rule lose money if they spill oil. They either sell it as a commodity or have bought it to run their businesses. All they ask for are reasonable regulations that address real problems and can be implemented with minimal but justifiable costs. I honestly don’t think that is too much to ask of the federal government.
This program is the worst of one-size-fits all government. There are certain measures that should be taken at large facilities that are equal to the risk associated with a potential spill from those facilities. But why would we apply the same standard to a small facility with a very small risk of spilling? Why would we apply the same standard to completely different industries? Part of the problem with this rule is that EPA is trying to cover virtually every industry someone can think of with one rule and its making for very bad government and very bad policy.
What is most egregious about this rule is the utter lack of data to back it up. There is simply no data to defend the inclusion of farms or the air transport industry under the rule. Further, there is limited data to justify many of the proposed changes that affect other industries. Again, no one here today is seeking to have more spills. We simply want federal regulations to address real, identifiable, proven problems. The 2002 rule does not do that. The 1973 rule does not do that.
That is why the EPA has proposed the rule it did today which is an incomplete but appropriate step in the right direction. The rule correctly extends the compliance deadline for farming operations with a storage capacity of less than 10,000 gallons. However that extension is limited to the 2002 requirements leaving in place the onerous 1973 rule for farmers. The approach to farmers has been the exact opposite of how our government should work. We should first identify a problem and then write a law or a regulation. Instead EPA wrote a regulation to cover farmers and is now trying to identify the problem.
The proposed rule does correctly provide much needed relief to the air transport industry. The sized secondary containment requirements do not make sense at airports. They could create safety and fire hazards and would unnecessarily cause logjams on the runways.
Unfortunately, the rule does little to assist small oil producers. First, by reinterpreting its wastewater treatment exemption, EPA will bring under the rule for the first time natural gas wells by arguing that produced water is in fact an oil. Secondly, the 10,000 gallon threshold outlined today does nothing to help small producers who often have storage capacity far above that because these wells at one time produced far more oil. I look forward to working with EPA to address the concerns of the small producers that make up the backbone of the nation’s energy industry.
Again, some might be narrow in incorrectly arguing today that we are trying to make it easier to have oil spills. But family farmers do not want oil spills because they live on the land and are paying a lot for fuel. Brent Cummings from OK runs a family owned business with 8 employees. He certainly doesn’t want more oil spills. People like Mr. Cummings lose money when they lose oil. We simply must have reasonable regulations at reasonable costs that can be thoroughly defended with sound data. To date, that has not been the case with the SPCC program.