Thank you to my colleague Brian Freeman for his contributions to this post.  Brian is an attorney in the Environmental & Utilities Practice Group who has significant experience with underground storage tank issues for industrial and petroleum clients.

On July 15, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule significantly expanding its program for underground storage tank (UST) systems that store petroleum or hazardous substances.

The final rule is lengthy and detailed but focuses on several areas in particular, such as:

  • Expanded secondary containment requirements for new UST systems or existing system components being replaced;
  • Expanded operation and maintenance requirements, including periodic inspections and testing of UST system components;
  • Expanded requirements to confirm compatibility and notify EPA before switching a UST system to store newer fuels such as ethanol blends and biodiesel;
  • Operator training requirements for site owners, managers, and employees; and
  • Release detection requirements for previously-deferred UST systems storing fuel for emergency power generators.

The final rule becomes effective on October 13, 2015. In states without existing, EPA-approved UST regulations, UST system owners and operators must comply with the revised federal regulations as of this date.  Certain requirements must be met immediately. For example, if you store ethanol blends or biodiesel, you must immediately ensure that your UST system is compatible with such fuels. Secondary containment requirements for new UST systems or dispenser systems take effect within 180 days after the effective date. Other portions of the final rule, such as inspection, testing, and training requirements, will take effect three years from the effective date.

States that currently have EPA-approved UST regulations have three years to revise their regulations and have them approved by EPA as meeting the revised federal regulations.

EPA’s website contains a summary of the final rule and other materials that can be useful tools for understanding the new requirements and their applicability.