EPA's SPCC Rules Lose Some Sting, But NATA Still Wary

 - September 26, 2006, 6:50 AM

New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules addressing fuel spill prevention in the form of proposed amendments to the EPA’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program are lauded as a step in the right direction for the aviation industry, according to the National Air Transportation Association (NATA). Still, the FBO trade group contends the agency’s proposal contains a number of unanswered questions.

The EPA issued the proposed amendments to the SPCC program last December in the form of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM contains a number of policy changes that differ from previous EPA proposals as they relate to airport operations. Most notably, aircraft mobile refueling vehicles have been exempted from “sized secondary containment,” which would have required operators of the vehicles to construct costly containment areas in which to park the vehicles when not in service. Under the new NPRM, aviation refueling vehicles are still subject to less stringent “general containment” measures, which most aviation businesses see as far more reasonable, although the term is loosely defined. The NPRM also contains special exemptions for smaller facilities and other types of mobile vehicles, including motive power and oil-filled equipment.

NATA president James Coyne said in a statement to Congress, “Overall, NATA is supportive of the efforts made by the EPA to mitigate the impact the SPCC rules could have on the aviation industry and looks forward to working with the agency to further clarify some key issues that currently remain unresolved.”

There is still some question as to whether an extension provided in the NPRM until October 31 next year applies to aviation refueling vehicles. In noting that other industrial equipment are exempted from SPCC regulations due to outstanding spill history and “economic incentive” to conserve fuel, Coyne told Congress, “Here the EPA fails to recognize that aviation businesses at airports have the same economic incentives and similar design, construction and maintenance stringencies regarding mobile refuelers.”