August 16, 2019

RMPs vs SPCC Plans

While it sometimes seems that people can’t agree on anything, there is one thing that every human can agree upon; that there are far too many shortened words within the waste industry. These acronyms can make it confusing to understand the requirements of its regulations, especially those that are already closely related to one another. Luckily, with the right tools, it’s possible to decipher the difference of industry acronyms And their requirements, the top of which include Risk Management Plans (RMP) and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC).

Risk Management Plans (RMPs)

Risk Management Plans (RMPs) are a component of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986, which was created to help communities plan for chemical emergencies. EPCRA requires the environmental industry to report on the storage, use, and release of hazardous substances to federal, state, and local governments. There are many aspects of EPCRA regulations, and, in Texas, each separate portion is maintained by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). These regulations include Tier II reporting, TRI reporting, and the aforementioned RMP component. These three sets of reporting act as a stair step in the hierarchy of volume of hazardous chemicals stored, used, and disposed of from a specific location. A Tier II report can be triggered if a site stores more than 10,000 lbs. of any hazardous material. The higher levels of toxic materials are also reported at lower storage thresholds. The TRI Form A and Form R are designed to capture the amount of this high hazard material that is disposed of or released to the environment (typically by spills, emissions, disposal by landfill, or wastewater treatment and discharge). The RMP is designed to establish low threshold levels for the most toxic and flammable chemicals used in industry. Storage at these levels invokes an onerous set of requirements designed to inform and prepare the community for any potential discharges of the chemical. It also sets in place very stringent documentation, inspection, reporting and emergency preparation requirements, including emergency drills coordinated with local LEPC, Fire, and Police entities.

More information on these relations and how they affect both the industrial community and average citizens can be found in the TCEQ’s comparison of Tier II, TRI, and 112(r) requirements or in section 112(r) of the EPA fact sheet on RMPs.

Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans

On the other hand, a facility is covered by the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule if it has an aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 U.S. gallons or if it (a) possesses a completely buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 U.S. gallons and (b) presents a reasonable expectation of an oil discharge into or upon navigable waters of the U.S. or adjoining shorelines. As a result, unless a site has been directly engineered to capture all runoff into a basin or ditch, anything that goes off the site is considered as discharge to navigable waters. However, even when these basins are engineered, acts of God such as hurricanes can result in an inevitable overflow, ultimately causing discharge into navigable waters, thus making SPCC essential.

An SPCC plan is implemented and maintained directly by the EPA in Texas; however, TCEQ has access to environmental data, and, upon inspection of your facility, is within its rights to ask to see the plan and review its details. This is actually beneficial for the individual within EH&S responsible for the plan’s implementation, as the TCEQ inspectors are typically very helpful in making sure that 40 CFR 112 is followed, but unlikely to levy fines and other penalties for an inadequate or non-existent SPCC Plan. If a facility is in gross violation, the TCEQ may contact the EPA, but this still provides time for the ESC to prepare prior to inspection. Preparation is essential, as the EPA is extremely thorough in its inspections. It is wise to call in a SPCC Plan expert for an inspection and review of one’s site – it is required that one update and recertify their SPCC Plan at a minimum of every five years anyway, which requires sign off by a licensed PE (or GE) in Texas.

SPCC Plans include much of the same information found in the EPCRA regulations; however, these regulations are focused on oil only (although the EPA’s definition of oil is surprisingly expansive). Good SPCC Plans emphasize site inspections of containers and infrastructure, inundation prevention, secondary containment for oily material, possession of adequate countermeasure equipment at the site (spill booms, sorbents, etc.), periodic training for site personnel to respond to a spill, and training drills to keep site personnel familiar with the functions required to respond to spill events. Another commonality with EPCRA regulations is that one must have accurate contact information for the responsible people at the site as well as the local first responders (typically the LECP, Fire Department, and Police/Sheriff’s Department). Although many of these requirements may seem redundant, it is always best to have working relationships with local first responders. Having first responders familiar with your site dramatically reduces questions and confusion during an actual spill. For more useful information on SPCC Plans, click here.


Many of the requirements involved in RMP, SPCC, and other regulations involve maintaining an accurate inventory of waste, including used oil. WASTELINQ has the functionality to track volumes of waste produced, shipped, and will soon have an integrated waste tracking feature to allow for container scanning and tracking volumes of bulk storage tanks. WASTELINQ’s updated web-based platform is built to grow with your business. For more information about WASTELINQ, go to, or call Sean Easton at 713-859-8252.