Federal laws/regulations; Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report

The Connecticut General Assembly


November 25, 1994 94-R-0955


FROM: David Keith Leff, Senior Attorney

RE: Reportable Spill Quantities in Selected Other States

You asked what the reportable oil and chemical spill quantities are in other states.


This report describes the reportable quantities for spills of oil and hazardous substances in California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan. Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. They were chosen for their size, geographical diversity, or record of environmental activism. We were directed to the statutes and regulations described by environmental staff of the states in question.

Most of the states use the lists of chemicals and reportable quantities developed under several federal laws dealing with waste management and water pollution. A few states require reporting of any spill amount, sometimes only for oil while using federal reportable quantities for other substances. Often state agencies are allowed to add to the federal lists. Iowa and California are among states that have a subjective standard which requires reporting of spills which may cause environmental, public health or public safety problems. State staff advises reporting on any quantity. Some states have exemptions for specific types of spills. Massachusetts has the most extensive list of exemptions, including passenger vehicle fuel tank spills.


California uses the reportable chemical spill quantities for "hazardous substances" adopted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 ("Superfund"). A hazardous substance that is not on the Superfund list is nevertheless reportable if it may pose a significant threat to public health and safety or to the environment (Cal. Health and Safety Code 25359.4). The Superfund quantities range from one pound for substances such as silver cyanide, to 5,000 pounds for substances such as sodium fluoride. Hundreds of chemicals are specifically listed as are many waste producing industrial processes. Materials exhibiting hazardous characteristics such as toxicity and reactivity also come under the law (40 CFR 302.4).

Another California law requires businesses to immediately report any release or threatened release of hazardous material (Cal. Health and Safety Code, 25507). Hazardous material is broadly defined as "any material that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical or chemical characteristics, poses a significant present or potential hazard to human health and safety or to the environment if released into the workplace or the environment."


Reportable chemical spill quantities are those listed for hazardous substances under Superfund, or as extremely hazardous substances under the Superfund Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 1986 (SARA), the emergency planning statute which also establishes threshold planning quantities (29 Ill. Admin. Code 430.30). Oil spills are reportable if they must be reported under the federal Water Pollution Control Act. This generally includes spills that "may be harmful to the public health or welfare" (40 CFR 110). Harmful discharges include those that (1) violate applicable water quality standards, or (2) leave a film on the water or adjoining shorelands or cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the water's surface or on adjoining shorelands. Generally, spills must be reported only if into navigable waters or adjoining shorelands.


Any situation involving "the actual, imminent or probable" release of hazardous substances onto land, water, or into the atmosphere is reportable if the "quantity, strength and toxicity of the hazardous substance, its mobility in the environment and its persistence creates an immediate or potential danger to the public health or safety or to the environment" (Iowa Admin. Code 567-131.1). Hazardous substances are those that present a danger to public health or safety including those that are toxic, corrosive, flammable, or that are an irritant. Among substances specifically mentioned are heavy metals, pesticides, organic solvents, and petroleum products.


Any facility must report a release which could threaten human health or the environment outside the facility, or any release which exceeds the reportable quantities established by the federal EPA under Superfund (MD Regs. Code Any person discharging oil must immediately report the incident (MD Regs. Code A discharge includes any spill which gets into ground or surface waters or is placed in a location where it is likely to pollute.


Massachusetts has a three tier system of reporting releases of hazardous materials and oil. Some must be reported within two hours, others within 72 hours, and still others within 120 days. We discuss the former, which are those releases of immediate concern.

Releases of hazardous materials or oil must be reported if they exceed the reportable quantity given on a chemical list developed by the state (Mass. Regs. Code Tit. 310 40.0311). The list includes hundreds of chemicals and designated waste processes and was derived from a several federal EPA lists, a federal Department of Transportation list, and state sources. The reportable quantities range from one pound to 100 pounds. For example, one pound of lead is reportable and five pounds of cyanide. Petroleum products are generally reportable in gallons. Gasoline is reportable at 10 gallons. There are also reportable concentrations when hazardous materials or oil are found in groundwater or soil (Mass Regs. Code Tit. 310 40.0352). In addition to specifically listed chemicals, 10 pounds of any material that exhibits toxic, corrosive, or reactive characteristics or is infectious is reportable. When quantities are unknown, they must be reported if the release likely exceeded the designated reportable quantity. All the amounts relate to the quantities of material released within 24 consecutive hours or less.

Also reportable are any quantity of oil leaving a sheen, any quantity of oil or hazardous materials that pose or could pose an immediate threat, and any quantity of oil or hazardous materials that is discharged to a stormwater system or sanitary sewer. Massachusetts regulations exempt 18 specific kinds of releases from reporting including diesel fuel or gasoline spills from passenger fuel tank ruptures and sheens from recreational outboard motors (Mass. Regs. Code Tit. 310 40.0317).


The Michigan Environmental Response Act requires the owner or operator of a facility where there is a chemical release to report when quantities meet those established under federal Superfund (Mich. Comp. Laws 299.610a). The department of natural resources is authorized to establish "alternate or additional reportable quantities as necessary to protect the public health,

safety, or welfare, or the environment". A facility is any area, place, or property. State regulations require reporting of any quantity of oil, salt or polluting material listed by the Michigan Water Resources Commission when spilled by a vessel, oil storage facility or "on-land" facility. These terms do not appear to include train tank cars or trucks (Mich. Admin. R. 323.1164).


Any spilled substance which may cause water pollution must be reported by the person in control of the substance (Minn. Stat. Ann. 115.061). There is a five gallon minimum quantity for reporting petroleum spills. Spills of all other chemicals are reportable in any quantity.


Any person discharging petroleum or hazardous substances onto state lands or waters must immediately report to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (N.C. Admin. Code 7:1E-5.3). Hazardous substances are a wide range of state listed chemicals and waste processes, hazardous substances listed under the federal Water pollution Control Act and Superfund, and other chemicals listed under federal regulations.


Any person in control of a hazardous substance prior to its release must report the release to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 6 595.3). Hazardous substances include petroleum and a long list of other chemicals with reportable quantities for air releases and land or water releases. Reportable quantities for land or water releases range from one to 100 pounds. There does not appear to be a minimum reportable quantity for release of petroleum.


Spills of oil to water are reportable if they produce a visible oily slick, oily solids, or coat aquatic life, habitat or property with oil (OR. Admin. R. 340-108-010). Normal discharges from properly operating marine engines are exempt. If spilled on land, oil is reportable if it exceeds 42 gallons. For other chemicals, the Superfund list and reportable quantities is used.


Regulations under the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law require a report to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources by the person discharging any pollutant to surface or groundwaters, or the person owning the premises from which the spill emanates, according to Jim Root of the Bureau of Waste Management. There is no reportable quantity and practically all substances are reportable. Pennsylvania hazardous waste regulations require the generator or transporter to notify the department immediately of a spill which affects surface or groundwater regardless of amount (Pa. Code Tit. 25 262.46).. If no water is affected a complex system of reportable quantities is used. They are for the most part more stringent than federal reportable quantities. Generally, all spills over five gallons must be reported. Although the requirements relate to hazardous waste, the department considers any material when spilled to be a waste.


According to Texas' Oil and Hazardous Substances Spill Contingency Plan, any harmful quantity of a hazardous substance is reportable. State law defines a harmful quantity as the amount "determined to be harmful to the environment or public health or welfare or [which] may reasonably be anticipated to present an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare" by the federal Environmental Protection Agency administrator or by the executive director of the Texas Water Resources Commission (Tex. Water Code Ann. 26.263). The plan defines hazardous substances as those designated under Superfund or the federal Water Pollution Control Act or identified by the Texas Water Resources Commission, and includes a Comprehensive Hazardous Substances list. Any quantity of oil spilled to ground or surface water is reportable. Otherwise the reportable quantity is 210 gallons (five barrels).