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Overview of the Discharge of Oil Regulation ("Sheen Rule")

Rule Overview

The Discharge of Oil regulation is more commonly known as the "sheen rule." Under the Clean Water Act, this rule provides the framework for determining whether an oil spill should be reported to the federal government. In particular, the regulation requires the person in charge of a facility or vessel responsible for discharging oil that may be "harmful to the public health or welfare" to report the spill to the federal government. The regulation establishes the criteria for determining whether an oil spill may be harmful to public health or welfare, thereby triggering the reporting requirements, as follows:

  • Discharges that cause a sheen or discoloration on the surface of a body of water;
  • Discharges that violate applicable water quality standards; and
  • Discharges that cause a sludge or emulsion to be deposited beneath the surface of the water or on adjoining shorelines.

Because the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which amended the Clean Water Act, broadly defines the term "oil," the sheen rule applies to both petroleum and non-petroleum oils (e.g., vegetable oil). The regulation also provides several exemptions from the notification requirements.

Full text of Part 110: Discharge of Oil Regulation is available through the Government Printing Office.

Related Federal Register Notices:

  • March 29, 1996: Oil Discharge Program; Editorial Revision of Rules; Correction. 61 FR 14032 (PDF) (2 pp, 20 K, About PDF)
  • February 28, 1996: Oil Discharge Program; Editorial Revision of Rules. 61 FR 7421  (PDF) (3 pp, 26 K, About PDF)
  • April 2, 1987: Part 110 - Discharge of Oil. 52 FR 10719

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Additional Information:

Fact Sheet: Oil Discharge Reporting Requirements

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