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EPA Settlement Yields Improved Ability for Nantucket Company to Respond to Oil Spills

Release Date: 12/19/2013
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – Dec. 19, 2013) – Harbor Fuel, a facility that stores large amounts of fuel on Nantucket, has improved the facility’s oil spill prevention techniques and will acquire an emergency response spill trailer and other equipment/supplies that will help protect Nantucket’s unique and vulnerable environment from oil spills, under the terms of a settlement with EPA for allegedly failing to adequately prepare for potential oil spills at the facility as required by federal law.

Federal law requires that facilities such as Harbor Fuel that have the potential for oil spills take every step possible to prevent oil discharges to the nation’s rivers, lakes and oceans through implementation of Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure (“SPCC”) plans under the federal Clean Water Act. Any facility with more than 1,320 gallons of aboveground oil storage capacity and meeting certain other criteria must develop and implement SPCC plans to prevent and contain spills, such as by installing impervious secondary containment around storage tanks and transfer areas.

The law also recognizes that it is equally important that facilities know how to minimize environmental damage when spills do occur. To achieve this, regulations require response planning and spill preparation in a “Facility Response Plan” (FRP) especially for facilities that are expected to cause significant harm to the environment as the result of an oils spill - such as facilities like Harbor Fuel which have large amounts of storage capacity and/or transfer oil over water. To ensure that a facility can adequately respond to a spill, it must have adequate employee training, spill response equipment, and a contingency plan for containing and cleaning up a release.

EPA’s action stems from a 2012 unannounced exercise carried out by representatives of EPA, the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard at the Nantucket facility to determine whether Harbor Fuel could successfully respond to an oil release. EPA determined that the company could not properly carry out the facility’s “Facility Response Plan” and that its personnel were inadequately trained to respond effectively to limit the impacts of an oil spill. Since the exercise, the company has worked cooperatively with EPA to correct the problems identified.

"It's critical for oil storage facilities, especially those storing large amounts of oil close to the water, to be fully prepared to adequately respond to an oil spill,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England region. “Preventing pollution from occurring in the first place is the best way to protect our communities and our environment."

Under the settlement agreement, the company will pay a $14,000 penalty and also spend at least $ 37,940 to acquire an emergency response spill trailer and other equipment and supplies to be used to respond to off-site oil spills on Nantucket as well as any spills at the company’s facility. In past years, Harbor Fuel has responded to approximately five to six off-site, third party spills per year. Given the distance of the island from the mainland, this service benefits both the environment and the Nantucket community. The company is not otherwise required to buy the trailer and equipment under the SPCC or FRP requirements, but having it will allow Harbor Fuel to respond to such spills at their facility and elsewhere on the island more quickly and efficiently.

More information:

SPCC Requirements (http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/index.htm)

FRP Requirements (http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/frps/index.htm)

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