Farmers need to meet new fuel storage rules

Farm Forum

If you are a farmer, you are likely already out of compliance with federal fuel storage rules.

“If I had to guess, I’d say less than 20 percent are in compliance,” said Toby Sunderland, an engineer who assists farmers across southern Minnesota with fuel tank spill prevention.

The Environmental Protection Agency requires two main things for farms that store more than 1,320 gallons of oil products.

The tanks have to have some type of containment dike around them in case fuel is spilled, and the farm owner must have a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures plan completed and on their farm.

Sunderland of Sunderland Engineering in Maynard said the containment can take several forms. “It can be an earthen dike with poly liner, concrete, a corrugated steel ring with a liner or they have portable poly totes for smaller 1,000 gallon tanks.”

As for the spill prevention plans, different requirements are needed depending on the size of fuel storage.

For farms with 10,000 gallons of fuel and no tank larger than 5,000 gallons, farmers can do a non-certified plan using a template on the EPA website. “It’s a 20-plus page form that takes some time, but people can do it themselves.”

Larger farms need a certified plan, something people such as Sunderland can do.

Sunderland said he’s heard concerns that the information will be held by the EPA, but he said the plan is not filed with EPA or any agency.

“They are just supposed to stay on your farm. In the event of a spill, you have protocol on what to do, numbers to call and you can respond quicker. And, if you get inspected, you need to be able to hand them your plan.”

The EPA has set a May 10 deadline for the plans to be in place, but that deadline is likely to be pushed to the fall.

“I tell people not to procrastinate. They’re going to have to do it.”

And, Sunderland said, most farmers are technically supposed to already have a plan and tank protections in place. That’s because any farm established before 2002 is already required to be in compliance. “There aren’t too many farms that have started after 2002,” he said.

With the size of today’s farms, virtually all of them will have to come into compliance. “The 1,320-gallon threshold isn’t much. So you’re looking at virtually every farm needing to do this.”

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