A Serving of Environmental Alphabet Soup

The field of environmental compliance has its own language, and it is a virtual alphabet soup of acronyms. While we won’t try to include them all, we’ve stirred together some of the regulatory abbreviations commonly used in compliance plans developed for industrial properties, just to give you a taste.  

Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC)
This refers to a specific set of rules within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oil spill prevention program. 

(In fact, SPCC is sometimes referenced by another abbreviation – “40 CFR Part 112”, which describes its location within the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); Title 40 pertains to the protection of the environment, and Part 112 refers to oil pollution prevention.)

The SPCC rules apply to a facility if it has an aggregated aboveground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried oil storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons, and if there is a reasonable expectation that oil could discharge into or onto navigable waters of the U.S. or adjoining shorelines. 

Facilities meeting these thresholds must prepare and follow a SPCC Plan, which must be reviewed and updated every five years.

Pollution Incident Prevention Plan (PIPP)
This acronym refers to a plan required in order to comply with regulations about the storage of oil and other polluting materials in the State of Michigan.

(It too is sometimes accompanied by an abbreviation – “Part 5” – which refers to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) administrative rules for Emergency Response for Releases to Water, specifically, the spillage of oil and polluting materials.)

Michigan facilities that store oil and polluting materials above the following quantities are required to develop a PIPP: 1,320 gallons of total oil capacity, 1,000 gallons of salt in liquid form or 5 tons of salt in sold form, and 550 gallons of any polluting materials.

A PIPP must be reviewed and updated every three years.

Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)
Properties subject to National Pollution Discharge Elimination stem permitting (see below) are required to prepare and follow a SWPPP.  This is a plan to minimize or eliminate the potential for contamination of storm water by industrial activities, using best management practices and structural controls and periodic inspections.

A facility’s SWPPP must be reviewed annually. 

Integrated Contingency Plan (ICP)
PM Environmental combines the SPCC and PIPP plans (and often SWPPP, if needed) into one comprehensive plan known as an ICP.  The ICP covers all elements of both SPCC and PIPP plans, and SWPPP (if applicable).

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
The U.S. EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits the discharge of pollutants through a point source into a surface water of the U.S. without an NPDES permit. NPDES permits contain limits on what may be discharged, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements and other previsions, all to ensure that a discharge does not harm water quality or human health. Storm water discharge is the most common reason for obtaining a NPDES permit.

Industrial Storm Water General Permit (ISWGP)
This general permit, which is a simplified version of a NPDES permit, covers the discharge of storm water from both existing and new sources associated with industrial activity to surface water.

An ISWGP, which must be renewed every five years, requires the development and implementation of a SWPPP. 

Notice of Intent (NOI)
This is a general permit application that notifies a regulatory authority of a planned discharge for which coverage of a NPDES permit will be needed. It contains information about the discharge and the operator/facility responsible for that discharge.

Certificate of Coverage (COC)
Once a NOI has been processed by a state government (which may take up to six months), a COC is granted for the subject property. The COC outlines the requirements to comply with the terms and conditions of the Industrial Strom Water General Permit (ISWGP) as well as the operation and maintenance of the structural and non-structural controls described in the SWPPP.

A COC must be renewed every five years (since ISWGPs are updated on that timeframe).
No Exposure Certification (NEC)
All states require the submittal of a NEC for facilities that are subject to industrial storm water regulations. The NEC claims no exposure for storm water which occurs on the subject property (storm water that does not come in contact with any polluting materials it could transport downstream).

This is just one spoonful of the acronym soup of environmental compliance. Each new project can bring a new crop of abbreviations, which should be enough to convince you not to go it alone.

When it comes finding the right expert to help, the only letters you need to know are PM.  Every day, property owners, investors and lenders look to PM Environmental to make sense of the environmental regulatory landscape, acronyms and all.

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