Despite our best efforts, oil spills are sometimes unavoidable. Locations that are likely to experience an oil spill greatly benefit from having a pre determined oil spill response plan. Depending on the situation, oil spill response plans are required by law. Being prepared helps to reduce environmental damage, prevent future spills from occurring, and enhances efficient response times.
Spill response plans not only address response after a spill, but also include plans to prevent spills from occurring. Prevention planning may include keeping all staff fully trained, regular maintenance of equipment, and replacing oil storage tanks when appropriate. Equally important is how the facility plans to respond once an oil spill occurs. Included in this section of the spill response plan is a listing of all required equipment within its location, and necessary personnel needed for the response. Additional information that may be supplied in the spill response plan is spill history and drainage patterns. A detailed diagram of the facility with all transfer and holding stations labeled may also be included in the spill response plan. The oil spill response plans are reviewed per regulatory requirements.
While strongly encouraged for any facility that handles or stores oil, spill response plans are mandatory for most large facilities or vessels. Onshore non-transportation related facilities deemed to pose “significant and substantial environmental harm” by the EPA must submit a Facility Response Plan (FRP). Spill response plans are reviewed due to a number of factors, including method of oil transferring, oil storage capacity, proximity to aquatic life and drinking water, and spill history. Transportation vessels, offshore facilities, or any oil handling facility that could threaten navigable waters is subject to the Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, and must submit a spill response plan as well. Various agencies may review the oil spill response plans. Onshore marine facilities and vessels report to the Coast Guard, non-transportation onshore facilities are reviewed by the EPA, and both US DOI and Bureau of safety review spill response plans for offshore facilities. Pipeline spill response plans are overseen by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration. Once a spill response plan is submitted, it must be kept current. At least once every five years, spill response plans must be resubmitted to the appropriate environmental officers. Should any major changes be made in the spill response plan, these amendments must also be submitted.