Farm Bureau:'The only difference is a little more red tape'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
An Environmental Protection Agency representative will meet with farmers about an approaching deadline to have a plan to prevent and contain fuel spills.
Greg Weigel, regional spill prevention control and countermeasures coordinator for EPA, will address growers during a free meeting 9 a.m. May 15 in Ritzville, Wash., hosted by the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.
Weigel has heard from many farmers who have the misconception that the rule, in place with the Clean Water Act in 1974, is new.
"Farm facilities have never been exempt from the rule," he said.
The rule was first amended in 2002 and several times since, requiring facilities to update their plans. The date for compliance has been extended to May 2013.
John Stuhlmiller, director of government relations with the Washington Farm Bureau, believes the amendment reinforces existing regulations.
"Obviously, nobody is ever excited about increasing regulation," he said. "But if you already have a tank that size, the only difference is a little more red tape related to that."
Farmers with above-ground storage capacity of less than 1,320 gallons and underground storage of less than 42,000 gallons are not affected by the rule.
Farmers with less than 5,000 gallons of above-ground storage can use a template provided by EPA without an engineer's certification.
Weigel isn't certain how many farmers would be affected, since there is no requirement for them to register their facility.
"The only facilities we know of come to our attention because we see them or they've had a spill or someone lodged a complaint," he said. "(Farmers) have to determine whether this rule applies to them or not."
Weigel said there have been two enforcement cases in the Pacific Northwest -- one in which the farmer had tanks on a creek bank with no containment or plan and another who had fuel spill into a river and had no plan.
Weigel said the fine could be "substantial" for a spill and lack of a plan. If farmers have a plan and containment but are missing an aspect of requirement or the plan is out of date, the EPA may ask for a fix without a penalty.
"Having a spill prevention plan makes sense," Weigel said. "(Farmers) don't want the stuff to get into the water, either."
If you go
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers meeting will be 9 a.m. May 15 at the Washington Wheat Foundation building, 109 E. First St. in Ritzville, Wash. The meeting is free. Contact WAWG at 509-659-0610.