EPA Pushes Back Final Regulation on USTs to Fall 2014

By Anthony Adragna

Bloomberg Report

April 17 (BNA) — The Environmental Protection Agency now expects to finalize regulations in fall 2014 expanding monitoring and inspection requirements for certain underground storage tanks, and will take into account comments on the potential impacts on small businesses as it finalizes the rule, the agency has told Bloomberg BNA.

“We consciously developed our 2011 proposed underground storage tank (UST) regulation to avoid provisions that would require costly retrofits to UST systems,” the agency said April 16. “We are carefully considering all of the comments as we develop the final UST regulation.”

Industry groups and members of Congress have consistently and repeatedly criticized the proposed regulation as underestimating the compliance costs and impacts it would have on small businesses (74 DER A-21, 4/18/12).

EPA proposed revisions to underground storage tank requirements in November 2011 and previously said it expected to finalize the regulations in summer 2014. The proposed rule would apply to tanks holding petroleum or hazardous chemicals that are regulated under Subtitle I of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Tanks regulated under Subtitle C of RCRA would not be affected.

According to the agency, there are more than 590,000 underground storage tanks around the country at 210,000 sites. Compliance costs for the proposed rule were $210 million, according to the regulatory impact analysis, but it said the regulation would lead to $300 million to $740 million in annual avoided remediation costs.

The 2011 proposed rule (76 Fed. Reg. 71,708) would create rules for backup containment of the substances in tanks and extend training requirements to more tank operators and owners. EPA says the proposed rule would enable better prevention and detection of leaks in storage tanks, which can cause groundwater contamination.

If finalized, the rule would be the first major revision to federal underground storage tank regulations since 1988.

Longstanding Concerns About Cost

Despite EPA assurances that it had taken into account the impact the proposed rule would have on small businesses, both industry groups and Congress have adamantly disagreed.

The Petroleum Marketers Association of America says EPA’s estimate of $900 in average annual compliance costs per facility is drastically wrong. The group estimates annual compliance costs would actually be $6,100.

Bipartisan groups of 11 senators and 58 House members sent separate letters in July 2013 raising concerns about the cost of the proposed regulation (144 DER A-31, 7/26/13).

“We are concerned that the Agency’s estimated annualized compliance costs of $900 may be significantly underestimated,” the Senate letter said.

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