EPA is proposing a whole series of new inspection and testing requirements for underground storage tanks (USTs).  By expanding the types of UST systems covered under the rules, EPA is  proposing to extend application of all UST regulations to entities not previously regulated, such as hospitals and universities.

EPA first promulgated regulation governing underground storage tanks (USTs) in 1988 (40 CFR Part 280). This regulation set minimum standards for new tanks and required owners and operators of existing tanks to upgrade, replace, or close them. The regulations largely covered gasoline dispensing facilities (GDFs).  Now EPA wants to extend these regulations to other UST systems, such as those used for emergency power generators.

EPA has not significantly changed the UST regulations since 1988.  In November 2011, EPA released a proposed UST rule package that would amend the 1988 regulations for the first time in over two decades. 

Basic Purpose of New UST Regulations

EPA states the purpose of the amendments to the UST regulations is to add additional protections to prevent contamination of ground water. The amendments add new requirements in the following areas:

  • new inspection requirements;
  • establish operator classifications and associated mandatory training;
  • establish new standards for when tanks must be replaced; and
  • extend application of the regulations to tanks not previously covered.

Costs Associated with the New Regulations

U.S. EPA performed a regulatory impact analysis for the new requirements for USTs.  It asserts that the total cost for businesses to comply with the new requirements is $210 million.  EPA asserts that these costs are offset by the avoided clean up costs associated with spills that the new requirements are projected to prevent. 

In weighing compliance costs with spill prevention, EPA says there is a net benefit to businesses. Its hard to see that businesses will view these new requirements as an overall cost benefit.  In addition, the regulations add a new layer of paperwork for every tank covered.

EPA estimates it will cost each facility approximately $900 per year to comply with the new requirements.  However, that figure does not capture the costs that may be incurred by entities that will be covered by the UST regulations for the first time.

Details on the Proposed Changes to the 1988 UST Rules

Along with the rule package, EPA put together a chart explaining the changes to the 1988 rules.  Some of the major changes worth noting are as follows:

  1. Extends Regulations to New USTs-  the proposed rule eliminates "deferrals" that had exempted certain tank systems from the UST rules.  Systems that would be covered include: emergency power UST systems, airport hydrant fuel distribution systems, field-constructed tanks, and certain waste-water treatment tanks systems.
  2. National Inventory of USTs-  All owners of USTs covered by the rule are required to submit a one-time notification of how many USTs they have, where they are located, when they were installed, and other identifying and compliance information.
  3. Creates Operator Classifications and Mandatory Training– the new regulations create three classifications of operators (A, B and C).  An individual must be designated for each of the three classes which cover employees with managerial, maintenance and day-to-day operational duties.. Each operator classification is required to be trained on minimum defined areas.  Records must be maintained at each facility to show the operator training requirements have been satisfied;
  4. New Tanks Must Have Secondary Containment and Under-Dispenser Containment (UDC)-  all new and replaced UST systems must have secondary containment and UDC.
  5. Spill and Overfill Inspections and Testing-  Overfill equipment must be tested regularly.  Spill prevention and release detection equipment must be tested regularly.  Walk through inspections will be required to check on condition of equipment.  The rules would phase out vapor monitoring and groundwater monitoring as release detection methods.
  6. Replacement of UST Once Lining Fails-  The 1988 UST regulations allowed lining as an upgrade option to extend the life of some tanks.  Under amendment, once lining fails the UST must be taken out of service and replaced.
  7. Testing After Repairs-  Testing of the system is required after any repair to spill and overfill equipment and secondary containment.  Even if the repair was due to general maintenance and not related to a release.
  8. Standards for Tanks Holding Ethanol or Biodiesel–  EPA is concerned certain chemicals are degrade tanks more quickly.  Therefore, any tank holding greater than 10% ethanol or 20% biodiesel must demonstrate compatibility.  The proposed regulations set forth standards for determining compatibility. 
  9. States Given Three Years to Adopt New Standards

Comment Period Extended

The original rule package was issued on November 18, 2011.  EPA decided to extend the comment period until April 16, 2012.