New Regulations Proposed For Underground Storage Tanks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published its proposed revisions to the regulations for Underground Storage Tanks (UST), which were first promulgated in 1988.  These proposed revisions will affect retail motor fuel sales, commercial and manufacturing sectors, hospitals, transportation and agriculture.  These changes will establish federal requirements that are similar to key portions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in addition to updating certain 1988 UST regulations.

This proposal would strengthen the 1988 UST regulations by increasing the emphasis on properly operating and maintaining equipment.  Some of the changes being proposed include adding secondary containment requirements for new and replaced tanks and piping, operator training requirements, periodic operation and maintenance requirements for UST systems, new release prevention and detection technologies, updating codes of practice, making editorial and technical corrections, and updating state program approval requirements to incorporate these new changes.

One of the primary goals of the 1988 UST regulations was the prevention of petroleum and hazardous waste releases from UST systems.  Even with the implementation of the ‘88 regulations, it is estimated that approximately 7,000 hazardous releases from UST systems are discovered each year.  These startling numbers of releases prompted the EPA to propose these revisions to the ‘88 UST regulations.

Operation and maintenance (O&M) problems are a major contributing factor in the release of petroleum and hazardous substances into the environment.  As a result, significant changes are proposed to O&M, including the testing of all spill prevention equipment to ensure its integrity. Spill prevention and line leak detection equipment is included in the testing section of the revised regulation.  In addition, walkthrough inspections of UST system equipment will be required, with detailed documentation, by owners and operators.

Also included in the O&M section of the proposed regulations are mandatory training courses for operators of UST systems.  The 1988 UST regulations have no such requirement, leaving untrained or improperly educated individuals in UST operation roles. The time frame for completion of training courses will vary depending on the number of tanks and the date of installation.  The maximum amount of time allowed for completion of the training course is three years from the effective date of the revised rules.

Another major change to the 1988 UST regulations would be that the regulatory exclusion of USTs that store fuel solely for use by emergency power generators would no longer exist. This means emergency power generator USTs would no longer be excluded from release detection requirements in 40 CFR Part 280, Subpart D and would be subject to all UST requirements. EPA is also proposing that, no later than 30 days after the effective date of the final UST rules, owners of USTs storing fuel supplied solely to emergency power generators notify appropriate implementing agencies that their systems exist.  Included on this list are hospitals, which have USTs with fuel specifically for emergency backup generators.

The EPA published the proposed rule changes in the Federal Register on November 18, 2011.  The public comment period will remain open until February 16, 2012 through the regulation’s website; http://www.regulations.gov using the Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–UST–2011–0301.

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