The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) has prepared revised guidelines on discharging oil into U.S. waters to assist research efforts on the prevention, preparedness and response to oil pollution that cannot be conducted in a laboratory, test tank, or other facility. The revised guidelines update the 1971 guidelines developed for the same purpose. Under these guidelines, the applicant for an oil discharge permit should; 1) provide data on the methods used to assess the environmental effects of the proposed test; 2) provide information and demonstrate (if possible) that the proposed test site has been selected to minimize adverse environmental impacts; 3) assess the potential impacts of the proposed test on the aesthetic, recreational, and economic uses of the proposed test site; 4) address potential impacts to public health; 5) describe how expected environmental effects will be controlled; 6) provide an opportunity for public participation in the permitting process; 7) provide a detailed description of the proposed test site; and 8) include a description of the geology, hydrology, water quality, ecology, climatic and any other environmental factors that could effect the petroleum discharge and the site.

EPA recognizes that bench- and meso-scale testing has prompted interest in field testing (using intentional discharges of oil) on a larger scale than was contemplated when the original guidelines were issued in 1971. The Agency has, therefore, removed the 1,000-gallon upper limit on the size of the permitted oil discharge in the original guidelines. The Agency is aware, however, that the discharge of greater volumes of oil will require correspondingly greater efforts to protect the public health and environment. EPA will therefore closely examine the justifications for large-volume discharge applications (greater than 1,000 gallons) to determine whether the proposed discharge size is justified.

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Author notes

1 The policies set out in this guidance are not final Agency action, but are intended solely as guidance. The guidance provided in this document is not to be construed as a rule under Clean Water Act section 311. Nor can the guidance set forth in this document be relied upon to create any rights enforceable by any party in litigation with the United States. EPA retains the right to amend this guidance or take actions not in accordance with this guidance at any time, however persons submitting applications for discharging oil for research permits should follow the approach suggested in this guidance. Applicants are subject to this guidance for the date stated on each page. In the event that EPA makes substantial changes to this guidance, we will work closely with the applicant to ensure that the approval process is not delayed past the six month lead time.