The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Denver office is seeking penalties against 21 facilities in Montana, the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for violations of the federal Clean Water Act's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan regulations. Penalties range from $450 to $37,893. EPA's actions require the facilities to develop and implement oil spill prevention plans, clean up spills and take corrective action.
In September 2003, EPA conducted 45 SPCC inspections at facilities in northern Montana, with half of the inspections occurring on the Blackfeet and Fort Peck Indian Reservations. The facilities EPA inspected store, distribute, produce or use oil. Nine of the facilities have major SPCC violations, such as no berms around oil storage tanks to contain a spill, no (or inadequate) SPCC plans, inadequate facility security, failure to clean up oil spills and/or numerous or repeat violations. Three of the facilities were inspected in 1995. Many of the same violations were identified then, but were not corrected. The 21 facilities have 30 days to accept EPA's proposed penalty or request a formal hearing.
Failure to comply with the requirements of the SPCC Plan regulations may result in harmful oil spills that create the potential for fires and explosionsendangering human life and property, as well as contaminating water. A single pint of oil released into water can leave a sheen on up to an acre of water. Even in such small quantities the oil can be deadly to birds, animals and fish when the oil is ingested, if feathers and fur become coated, or the water's oxygen supply is depleted.
"The regulations are in place to protect the environment, including drinking water. They also ensure that those in the regulated community who operate facilities meeting SPCC requirements are not disadvantaged economically," EPA Assistant Regional Administrator Carol Rushin said.
"The Oil Enforcement Program applies to all oilspetroleum, non-petroleum, animal and vegetable oil, and any facility that handles more than 1,320 gallons of oil is regulated, from farms to large refineries," Rushin said.