The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied requests by the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the National Association of Truck Store Operators (NATSO), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), 25 U.S. senators and 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to delay by six years the Oct. 13 federal deadline for initial testing of sumps, spill buckets and overfill prevention devices. (See June 29, 2018 TL).
The parties requesting the delay had questioned the feasibility of the testing and inspection requirements in the 2015 federal underground storage tank (UST) regulations and the availability of qualified contractors to complete the work before the deadline.
In its July 24 determination letters, the EPA said it had concluded a six-year extension of the deadline “could unintentionally do more harm than good.” The agency noted that the testing and inspection requirements in the 2015 regulations focus on the components most likely to leak or fail to detect a leak. The requested delay, therefore, “could result in releases not being identified and addressed for many years, which ultimately could result in unnecessary environmental damage and more expensive cleanup costs.”
Other factors mentioned by the EPA in support of its decision not to extend the deadline include:
- Many owners, operators, service providers, testing companies and other contractors have based their business plans on the Oct. 13 deadline, so an extension at this late date would create major disruptions for these companies.
- The final 2015 rule was the culmination of an eight-year rulemaking process that reflected numerous accommodations in response to industry input, including a simplified implementation schedule, reductions of the burden of walkthrough inspections and decreased requirements for periodic testing of tank secondary containment, among others.
- In May 2017, the EPA made another accommodation by accepting a low-water sump test as an alternative to the approved hydrostatic testing method in PEI/RP1200: Recommended Practices for the Testing and Verification of Spill, Overfill, Leak Detection and Secondary Containment Equipment at UST Facilities.
The Oct. 13 federal deadline applies in only the 16 states and territories that have not received State Program Approval (SPA). Under the 2015 rule, SPA states can, if they so choose, extend their compliance deadlines for up to three additional years. The extended deadlines in these states will spread the burden on and reduce the demand for contractors at any one time.
The EPA closed its decision letters by encouraging tank owners not to wait until the last minute to arrange for testing and inspection. The agency also acknowledged that if the required tests and inspections uncover equipment failures that must be corrected, owners may require additional time to complete necessary repairs and upgrades. Accordingly, the EPA will consider the good faith efforts of diligent owners when deciding if and how to respond to a violation.