For the first time since the Environmental Protection Agency came out with the federal underground storage tank regulations in 1988, the agency is now proposing significant revisions. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson signed the proposed rule on October 25, 2011.
On November 18, 2011, the EPA published the proposal in the Federal Register. The following breaks down the EPA's proposed revisions to the UST technical regulation in 40 CFR 280.
Adding periodic operation and maintenance requirements for UST systems
-Walkthrough inspections: Owners and operators would be required to do this of their UST systems at least once every 30 days.
-Spill prevention equipment testing: Would be required at installation and performed at least once annually.
-Overfill prevention equipment: Owners and operators would be required to test proper operation of this equipment at installation and every three years.
-Secondary containment areas: Owners and operators would be required to test this every three years.
-Release detection equipment: Owners and operators would be required to test annually.
Adding secondary containment requirements for new and replaced tanks and piping
-Owners and operators would be required to install secondary containment and interstitial monitoring for new or replaced tanks and piping installed after the effective date of the final UST regulation, including Indian country and Missouri and Kansas.
-Remove the option for owners and operators to use a release detection method other than interstitial monitoring for hazardous substance USTs (those installed after the final UST regulation).
-Install under-dispenser containment for all new dispenser systems.
Adding operator training requirements for UST system owners and operators
-State implementing agencies, as a condition of receiving federal Subtitle I money, would be required to develop state-specific training requirements for three classes of UST system operators.
Removing certain deferrals
-The EPA would remove the deferral of UST systems storing fuel for use by emergency power generators and would require owners and operators to perform release detection.
-Deferrals would be removed from field-constructed tanks (FCT), airport hydrant systems (AHS) and wastewater treatment tank systems.
-Aboveground tanks associated with FCT and AHS would continue to be deferred.
Adding new release prevention and detection technologies
The proposal would:
-Eliminate flow restrictors in vent lines as an overfill prevention option for all new tanks and when overfill devices are replaced.
-Require closure of lined tanks that cannot be repaired.
-Provide notification of UST ownership change to the implementing agency within 30 days.
-Require testing within 30 days after repairs to spill or overfill prevention equipment and secondary containment areas.
-Owners and operators demonstrate compatibility for UST systems storing greater than 10 percent ethanol or greater than 20 percent biodiesel.
-Clarify the responsibilities of UST owners and operators regarding interstitial alarm monitoring results, including alarms, under 40 CFR 280, subpart E.
-Eliminate groundwater and vapor monitoring as release detection options.
Updating for newer technologies and codes of practice
-The proposal includes technologies developed since the 1988 UST regulations were issued such as: allowing UST owners and operators to be able to use clad and jacketed tanks, noncorrodible piping, continuous in-tank leak detection, and statistical inventory reconciliation.
-Additionally, the EPA would add newer codes of practices, update titles of codes of practices, and removes codes of practice that are not applicable or no longer exist.
Reaction to the changes
According to the December 7, 2011 Petroleum Equipment Institute’s <i>TulsaLetter</i>, the EPA is cited as estimating that the average regulated facility will spend $890 per year complying with the rule. PEI Executive Vice President Robert Renkes said he thinks marketers will agree that, “EPA recognized the concerns marketers have over costs and tried hard to limit requirements for retrofits.”
However, Renkes said that for some motor fuel retailers, the 30-day walkthrough inspection requirements will require them to inspect their equipment more frequently.
“In addition, the requirements for periodic spill, overfill, secondary containment, and release detection testing will cost motor fuel retailers—who do not currently test that equipment on a regular basis—some money,” he added.
PEI is concerned with the main cause of new releases from UST systems, which is lack of proper operation and maintenance. Releases from tanks have dwindled, but recently spills and overfills due to delivery errors have become more problematic, as have releases from piping and at the dispenser.
“Data show that release detection equipment is only detecting 50 percent of the releases it is designed to protect,” Renkes said. “Many USTs currently in the ground were upgraded to meet the spill, overfill, corrosion protection, and release detection requirements in the 1988 UST regulation. As these USTs continue to age, PEI believes that it makes sense to seek to improve UST operation and maintenance and test components to ensure they are still working as intended.”
PEI is asking the EPA to clarify its walkthrough requirements proposal as well as asking the agency to explain its rationale in keeping ball float valves in operation, Renkes said, “in light of the acknowledged threat the continued use of ball floats have on human health (safety) and the environment.”
Matt Bjornson, of Bjornson Oil Company Inc. in Cavalier, ND, serves on the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Board, represents North Dakota on the Petroleum Marketers Association of America board, is a member of the PMAA Motors Fuels Committee and serves on the UST subcommittee. He attended the UST subcommittee meeting in Baltimore in January 2012 in order to work on the official PMAA comments being submitted to the EPA, however, he wanted to offer his own personal opinion on the proposed changes.
“EPA’s proposed rule makes the operation of double wall systems so entailed, that they are going to encourage owners of single wall underground storage systems to delay upgrading to double wall systems to the last possible moment,” Bjornson said. “In justification for requiring periodic testing, they cite on page 71723, ‘In addition, piping and containment sumps are assembled in the field during the installation process, potentially creating increased opportunities for release.’ I believe they should have focused more on uniform testing at installation, certification of installation companies and workmen, and documentation at the time of installation.”
Bjornson, who was a past NDPMA chairman as well as the chairman of PMAA two years ago, said some of the proposed testing has the potential of causing damage where no problem existed before.
“Some of the proposed testing does not test the secondary system at the level of performance that it was necessarily designed,” he said. “There are a number of older secondary systems, many of them orphaned (mfg. bankrupt, etc), that can easily be damaged by a slight over pressurization or by excessive vacuum.”
Furthermore, Bjornson warns that the introduction of liquid, such as water, in a secondary pipe interstice is a bad idea; it has the potential to damage the more delicate UST components during the proposed required inspection.
“Everyone I know in this industry has the same goal as EPA; we don’t want to see any leaks,” he said, and noted that PMAA’s comments to this proposal has come from a lot of different marketers who have given thoughtful consideration and suggestions from the real world. “Hopefully EPA will take those comments to heart.”