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Underground Storage Tank Regulations

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Because underground storage tank inspection leak detection is so difficult, underground storage tank regulations are extremely strict. These regulations serve to help prevent or eliminate personnel injury and environmental contamination.

Definitions and Exemptions

Indian Tribe

Any Native American tribe, band, nation, or other group – including Alaskan native tribes – recognized by the Federal government as eligible for special programs and services issued by the U.S. to Native Americans because of their Native American status.

Non-Operational Storage Tank

Any UST into which regulated hazardous substances will not be deposited or from which regulated hazardous substances will not be dispensed.

Operator

Anyone in control of or responsible for the daily operation of the UST.

Owner

Anyone owning a UST for storing, using, or dispensing regulated hazardous substances, or anyone who owned a UST immediately before tank use was discontinued.

Person

Individuals, consortiums, joint ventures, commercial entities, or the U.S. Government.

Petroleum

Any petroleum, petrochemicals, or petroleum derivatives which are liquid at standard temperature and pressure conditions – 60º F and 14.7 pounds of pressure per square inch absolute.

Regulated Substance

All liquid regulated hazardous substances, including petroleum and petrochemicals.

Release

Any spillage, leakage, emission, discharge, escape, leaching, or disposing from a UST into ground water, surface water, or subsurface soil.

Underground Storage Tank

Underground storage tank regulations classify USTs as any one tank or combination of tanks – including connected undergound pipes – which are used to accumulate or contain regulated hazardous substances and which have a tank volume of 10 per centum or more underground.

This does not include:

  • Farm or residential tank with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less used for the storage of motor fuel for non-commercial puposes
  • Tanks used for storing heating oil when the oil is used on the UST grounds
  • Septic tanks
  • Pipeline facilities
  • Surface impoundments, pits, ponds, or lagoons
  • Storm or wastewater collection systems
  • Flow-through process tanks
  • Liquid traps or gathering lines related to the production of oil or gas or gathering operations
  • USTs located in underground areas such as basements, cellars, or mine drift, shafts or tunnels provided the tank is placed on or above floor surface
  • Pipes which are connected to the above exemptions

Notification

Owners of underground storage tanks (USTs) must notify State or local agencies or a designated department of the tank’s existence within 18 months. Owners must also specify the size, age, type, location, and usage of the tanks. Within 18 months, the state, local agencies, or designated departments must be notified of each UST taken out of service.

State or local agencies do not require notification of removal of USTs if the removal was before January 1, 1974.

Under federal underground storage tank regulations, owners who use USTs after the initial notification period must notify designated State or local agencies or departments within thirty days, with the age, size, type, location, and use of the tank specified.

Beginning thirty days after notification and for eighteen months afterward, anyone depositing regulated substances in a UST must notify the owner or operator of the their responsibilities under underground storage tank regulations.

Additionally, 30 days after new tank performance standards are issued, anyone selling a tank for underground storage use must notify the purchaser of the owner’s notification requirements under these regulations.

Pursuant to underground storage tank regulations, State governors have 180 days to designate appropriate state or local agencies or departments to receive UST notifications. In addition administrators of these agencies have 12 months to decide the form of the notice and the information required under said notice. These notices must bear in mind the effects of the notice on small businesses and other owners or operators.

Each State is required to make two separate inventories – one for petroleum and one for other substances – of all USTs which contain regulated substances in any form.

Public Record

States receiving Federal funds are to maintain, update yearly, and make publicly available records of regulated USTs.

The State’s records are to include:

  • Number, sources, and causes of UST tank releases statewide
  • Record of UST compliance with State law
  • Information on the number of UST equipment failures in the State

Release Detection, Prevention, and Correction

Regulations

After sufficient public notice is given, the administrator has three months prior to their deadline to release detection, prevention, and correction regulations to owners and operators of USTs in order to protect human health and the environment

Regulation Distinctions

While authoring regulations, the administrator may make distinctions in USTs by breaking them up into:

  • Types
  • Classes
  • Ages

The administrator may further classify USTs by:

  • Tank locations
  • Soil and climate conditions
  • Tank use
  • Maintenance history
  • Tank age
  • Industry practice recommendations
  • National consensus codes
  • Hydrogeology
  • Water table
  • Tank size
  • Quantity of substances found within the tank
  • Owner or operator technical capability
  • Tank compatibility with stored substances

Requirements

Underground storage tank regulations must include:

  • Leak detection system, inventory control system in conjunction with tank testing, or comparable system for release identification requirements
  • Monitoring or leak detection system, inventory control system, or tank testing system maintenance requirements
  • Reporting requirements for UST releases and corrective actions taken
  • Tank closure requirements for the prevention of future leakages of hazardous substances
  • Requirements for showing proof of financial responsibility for corrective actions taken and the compensation of third parties for bodily injury and property damage due to UST leakages

Financial Responsibility

Federal underground storage tank regulations include the satisfaction of financial responsibility for UST maintenance and leakage through any one or combination of the following:

  • Insurance
  • Guarantee
  • Surety bond
  • Letter of credit
  • Qualification as a self-insurer

Underground storage tank regulations administrators have the authority to specify policy or other contractual terms, conditions, or defenses which are deemed prudent to ensure that the financial responsibilities of responsible parties are met.

Bankruptcy

In any case where owners or operators are in bankruptcy, reorganization, or arrangement in accordance with the Federal Bankruptcy Code or could expect to be bankrupt at the time of judgement, claims resulting from conduct which requires evidence of financial responsibility are to be the responsibility of the guarantor providing said evidence. The guarantor is entitled to all rights and defenses which would have been available to them had they been the primary subject of such claims.

A guarantor is any person or entity, other than the owner or operator of a UST, who is financially responsible for a UST owner or operator.

Pursuant to current underground storage tank regulations, the total financial responsibility of any guarantor is limited to the security amount provided to UST owners and operators, however guarantors are responsible for State or Federal statutory, contractual or common law liabilities to its owners or operators for actions such as, but not limited to:

  • Bad faith negotiating
  • Failure to negotiate claim settlement

Underground storage tank regulations administrators are to establish coverage amounts for classes and categories of petrochemical containing USTs which satisfy regulatory financial requirements and are in the amount of no less than $1,000,000 for each incident. Amounts my be lower for petroleum containing USTs at facilities that do not produce, refine, or market petroleum.

Administrators can suspend financial responsibility enforcement requirements for particular classes or categories of USTs, if they deem that:

  • Financial responsibility satisfaction methods are not available for USTs in those classes or categories
  • Steps are being taken to form a risk retention group
  • The State establishes a financial responsibility fund

Pursuant to current underground storage tank regulations, a suspension is limited to 180 days. A suspension redetermination may be made at the end of the 180 days if substantial progress has been made toward risk retention group establishment or if the owner or operator shows that the formation of a risk retention group is not possible and the State elects not to establish said fund.

New Tank Performance Standards

Underground storage tank regulations state that performance standards must be released for new USTs no later than three months before the effective regulation date.

These specification standards are to include but not be limited to:

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Installation
  • Release detection
  • Compatibility standards

Prior to Underground Storage Tank Regulations

Prior to the prescribed underground storage tank regulations dates, administrators are authorized to:

  • Enforce proper, prompt corrective actions by owners or operators of USTs when any petrochemical releases occur
  • Undertake corrective action regarding releases of petrochemicals from a UST into the environment if such measures are necessary to protect human health and the environment

Corrective actions are to be as extensive as deemed necessary by administrators of underground storage tank regulations to protect human health and the environment. The administration trust fund is to be used for:

  • Costs incurred by the corrective actions
  • Action enforcement
  • Cost recovery

USTs with no identifiable solvent owners or operators are to be given priority by administrators in regards to corrective actions.

After Underground Storage Regulations

After the prescribed dates specified by administrators or States, all USTs must be in compliance with all rules and regulations handed down by the State or administration.

After the deadline set forth, administrators are to take corrective action regarding releases of petrochemicals into the environment from USTs if necessary to protect human health and the environment if one of the following situations exists.

  • No owner, operator, or other entity subject to corrective action regulations or incapable of carrying out such regulation can be found within 90 days
  • Emergency action is required to protect human health and the environment
  • The cost of corrective action at facility is more than the required coverage amount set forth by the administration
  • Refusal or failure of UST owners or operators to comply with corrective action regulations

Priority of Corrective Actions

The administration is to give priority to corrective actions and issuance of corrective action directives to UST owners or operators for those petrochemical releases which are deemed to pose the greatest risk to human health or the environment.

Corrective Action Orders

Pursuant to underground storage regulations, administrators are authorized to issue orders to owners or operators of UST in regards to compliance with the regulations specified by the administration.

Allowable Corrective Actions

Administrators are authorized under current underground storage tank regulations to issue orders to owners or operators of USTs to carry out all rules and regulations aforementioned.

Cost Recovery

General

If the administration incurs costs due to corrective actions taken or enforced regarding petrochemical releases of USTs, the owners or operators of said USTs are liable for costs incurred.

Recovery

While determining cost recovery amounts, the administration will consider the amount of financial responsibility by owners, operators, or their guarantors set forth in previous regulation sections and the factors that went into the amount established.

Liability Effects

No indemnifications, hold harmless, or other similar agreement or conveyance is to be effective for the transference of responsibility from the liable owner, operator, or guarantor to any other party.

Inability or Limited Ability to Pay

To learn more about bulk fuel tank regulations, please visit our Fuel Tank Regulations page

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