Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and Federal Facilities

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Originally published in 1973 under the authority of §311 of the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation sets forth requirements for prevention of, preparedness for, and response to oil discharges at specific non-transportation-related facilities. To prevent oil from reaching navigable waters and adjoining shorelines, and to contain discharges of oil, the regulation requires these facilities to develop and implement Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans and establishes procedures, methods, and equipment requirements (Subparts A, B, and C).

In 1990, the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) amended the Clean Water Act to require some oil storage facilities to prepare Facility Response Plans (FRP). On July 1, 1994, EPA finalized the revisions that direct facility owners or operators to prepare and submit plans for responding to a worst-case discharge of oil (Subpart D).

Federal Facility Responsibilities Under the Oil Pollution Prevention Program

  • Developing and updating the facility’s oil spill emergency response plans
  • Maintaining required records/documentation
  • Testing emergency response equipment
  • Periodically performing mock spill response drills
  • Notifying federal, state, and local agencies in case of an incident
  • Mitigating all spills and discharges
  • Ensuring employees have required training

Application of Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation to Federal Facilities

OPA requires EPA to amend the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) to enhance and expand procedures for oil spill response. In addition, OPA requires certain facilities to develop response plans for responding to worst-case discharges of oil and hazardous substances. Federal facility activities subject to OPA requirements include:

  • Storing or handling petroleum, fuel oil, sludge oil, and oil mixed with waste
  • Transferring oil by using motor vehicles or rolling stocks;
  • Supporting maritime vessel activities or other water-related activities where fuels are used. 

EPA Enforcement

EPA’s enforcement authorities for OPA violations reside in CWA §311(e) and §311(c). Typically, EPA will negotiate a compliance agreement with a federal agency in violation of OPA. The typical compliance agreement contains several provisions including schedules for achieving compliance and dispute resolution.

Criminal Enforcement

Individual employees of federal facilities may have criminal sanctions brought against them for violations of OPA. Criminal fines may be imposed for violations of OPA under CWA §309.

State Enforcement

Section 1019 of OPA authorizes states to enforce, on the navigable waters of the state, the requirements for evidence of financial responsibility under OPA §1016.

Tribal Enforcement

OPA contains no Tribal enforcement provisions.

Citizen Enforcement

OPA contains no citizen enforcement provisions.

EPA OPA Regulations

OPA regulations are set forth in:

  • 40 CFR Parts 110, 112, and 300 subparts C, D, E
  • 49 CFR Part 194
  • 33 CFR Part 154

(Reference look-up: e-CFR)

EPA Policies and Guidance