EPA’s Proposed UST Rules – Walkthrough Inspections

EPA’s proposed UST regulations require owners and operators to conduct stricter monthly walkthrough inspections which look at:

  • Spill prevention equipment
  • Sumps and dispenser cabinets
  • Monitoring/observation wells
  • Cathodic protection equipment
  • Release detection equipment


The proposed rule changes, estimated to be final in November 2013, will ensure owners and operators are looking regularly at their equipment to catch problems early and prevent releases.

EPA is in the process of reviewing stakeholder comments and reaching out to a number of commenters to gain additional information.

PMAA Cost Estimates

EPA met with the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) to discuss PMAA’s comments on the proposed UST amendments and their concerns over the agency’s estimation of costs that the proposed rule will impose on small business petroleum marketers.

PMAA estimates that the revised rules will result in an annual compliance cost of $6,100 per year per facility for additional testing and compliance requirements based on conventional UST systems consisting of three USTs per system, three tank sumps and four dispenser sumps.  Walkthrough inspections would be approximately $3,600 annually based on third-party contractor cost estimates. The data comes from several sources including PMAA UST task force members who represent hundreds of retail outlets from all regions of the country and a PMAA survey of the 48-state petroleum marketing association members. PMAA also estimates that the cost would only rise over time. PMAA’s estimate is for testing and inspections only with walkthrough inspections. Any retrofits/replacements/repairs would mean additional cost. There are also additional costs associated with the storage, handling, and disposal of potentially contaminated water used to conduct integrity testing on secondary containment sumps.


New Requirement Description Increased Cost Per Facility Increased Costs For Industry
Release Prevention 
Walk Through Inspections $3,600.00 $803,365,200.00
Over-Fill Prevention Equipment Tests $135.00 $30,126,195.00
Spill Prevention Equipment Tests $750.00 $167,367,750.00
Interstitial Integrity Tests $350.00 $78,104,950.00
Testing Repairs to Spill & Over-Fill Prevention Equipment and Interstices $175.00  
Eliminate Flow Restrictors in Vent Lines for all New Tanks and When Over-fill Devices are Replaced $600.00  
Release Detection  
Operability Tests for Release Detection Methods $300.00 $66,947,100.00
Add SIR/CITLD to Regulations with Performance Criteria    
Response to Interstitial Monitoring Alarms $350.00  
Eliminate groundwater and vapor monitoring as release detection methods    
Remove deferral for emergency generator tanks    
Require notification of ownership change $100.00  
Closure of lined tanks that cannot be repaired according to a code of practice    
Requirements for determining compatibility    
Remove deferrals for airport hydrant fuel distribution systems and UST systems with field-constructed tanks    
EPA ct-related Provisions  
Operator training $500.00 $111,578,500.00
Secondary containment    
Under Dispenser Containment for all New Dispensers    
Annual Costs $6,160.00 $1,374,647,120.00
One Time Costs $600.00  

PMAA stated that such inspections cannot be handled in house by small petroleum marketers due to high employee turnover rates at c-store/stations. In many cases the technical requirements of the walkthrough inspections are beyond both the skill level and physical capabilities of the majority of c-store/station employees even with training. Assuming that walkthrough training was effective for in-house employees, turnover rates would require on-going and continual training that would further increase compliance costs for small business petroleum marketers. Moreover, the cost to hire a trained in-house employee to conduct the walk through inspections would be far greater than the cost to outsource for the service.

Many of the inspection requirements will require heavy manholes to be lifted and inspection of equipment in high traffic areas. These activities will require additional insurance for employees, because these activities are significantly different than typical convenience store employee duties. The cost to outsource has been estimated at $300 to $400 per inspection. Requiring in-house employees to conduct walkthrough inspections creates a greater risk of personal injury from traffic, and performing inspection tasks such as removing heavy sump covers which all drives the ultimate cost for insurance premiums and worker compensation payments. In addition, removing two employees from the store to conduct the walkthrough creates a greater security risk for those left inside, another factor that increases compliance costs. Creating greater risk requires higher insurance premiums which in this case would be substantial.  


API Comments

Comments by the American Petroleum Institute (API) does not support EPA’s proposed requirement to mandate monthly walkthrough inspections to include inspections of sumps and under-dispenser containment. In addition to these areas not being designed for frequent openings, sumps and under-dispenser containment are not easily accessible and therefore pose potential safety hazards.

In addition, API has asked EPA to allow the alternative PEI’s Recommended Practice 900, Recommended Practices for the Inspection and Maintenance of UST systems, to fully satisfy the walkthrough inspection requirements and not just act as a guide for such inspections. USTs are subject to multiple inspections under other programs, and this requirement could be conflicting and redundant. These other programs include SPCC plans, storm water discharge requirements, hazardous waste generator requirements, and other local or state programs. API has recommended that EPA authorize states to determine inspection requirements in their own approved program.


NACS and SIGMA Comments

Comments of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) demonstrate their concern that the EPA has “dramatically underestimated the monetary burden” involved in conducting walkthrough inspections. EPA’s cost assumptions do not make allowance for third party inspections in in-house technical professionals, but assumes onsite operations personnel will do the walkthrough inspection when, in fact, this is seldom the case.

Although there will be increased costs in meeting the equipment inspection requirements, EPA has indicated it is “sensitive to future costs associated with the rule and will work to minimize any required retrofits.”

However, EPA’s proposed UST rules significantly broaden regulatory obligations and impose significant regulatory burdens on UST owners/operators.

Stay tuned for updates on any revisions to the proposed rules and continued discussions related to the impact the new UST rules will have on UST businesses.

Nancy W. Teolis, J.D., has been a Legal Editor for BLR’s environmental law publications since 1993, focusing primarily on underground storage tanks, pesticides, and hazardous waste-related requirements. Before joining BLR, she worked for the law firm Rudman & Winchell in Bangor, Maine, with an emphasis on asbestos exposure litigation.  She received her law degree from Western New England University School of Law in Springfield, Massachusetts, and is a member of the Connecticut bar.

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