Who Regulates Oil Containment Requirements?

When planning an oil containment system, it’s best to start by verifying you have all the relevant regulations and codes at your disposal. Being ignorant of the requirements set up a specific agency won’t prevent you from having to pay fines after failing an inspection. Depending on where you’re building or operating an oil storage and transfer facility, you may have a dozen or more different agencies and regulatory bodies controlling your containment methods. Make sure you’re checking for relevant regulations at every level to avoid missing important specifications for your oil containment plans.

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal level regulations that apply to every oil company in the US come from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules regulate any facility storing or transferring oil in excess of certain volumes. The volumes vary depending on the type of storage or transfer, but they generally begin applying around 1,000 gallons for above ground storage and 30,000 to 40,000 gallons for underground and buried tanks. If you’re storing or transporting oil in and around open bodies of water, the regulations may apply at smaller volumes.

State Departments of Natural Resources

Each state also has its own set of oil containment regulations and separate rules on when they apply to facilities. Some states allow facilities to store tens of thousands of gallons of oil or fuel above ground before requiring extensive secondary containment, while others require it for any facility with more than a few hundred gallons of storage. State level regulations can be far stricter than containment measures in neighboring areas if there’s a history of spills or environmental damage. These regulations also tend to change more often and more drastically than those at the federal level. Stay on top of environmental regulations proposed in your area to make sure you’re ready to change containment measures as needed in the future.

Water and Watershed Protection Agencies

In many states and counties, especially in drought-prone areas where rainfall is essential for agriculture and human use alike, water and watershed protection agencies also get a say in how oil storage is protected against spills. Containment measures proposed by state and local agencies may have binding or non-binding effects. Even if some of the recommendations are voluntary, following them can still protect the facility from costly fines. Most watershed agencies make secondary containment recommendations or regulations based on risks local to the specific area, such as earthquakes or wildfires. This gives you important insight into adapting each storage or transfer facility to the risks specific to the region.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Since almost all levels of oil storage and production still require human management, there’s plenty of opportunities for hazardous exposure or injury risks from equipment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates many safety regulations that can affect how your oil containment measures are installed and used. For example, steep sided berms may pose a safety hazard if a worker is expected to walk along the top for inspections. Installing a safety rail may be necessary as part of your oil containment system to allow for safe access from inspectors and maintenance workers alike.

County Level Regulations

Don’t forget to communicate with all county and municipal level officials as well when planning a new or improved oil storage facility. Some areas have no specific regulations regarding oil processing or handling, while others are highly invested in controlling the process. Areas with a history of oil drilling and transfer naturally tend to have more local regulations than those without any history. Like state level regulations, these rules can change suddenly and often come with short deadlines for adoption. You may need to participate in local planning meetings and environmental discussions to ensure you’re able to operate your refinery or transfer station for years to come while making only reasonable upgrades.

If you find conflicting information on designing secondary oil containment while comparing federal, state, and local regulations, you’ll likely need the help of an engineer to design something that satisfies everyone. No matter what you end up designing for all the regulations that apply to your facility, we have a liner to meet or exceed the specifications here at BTL Liners.


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