Ask the Expert, Special Topics in Environmental Management

When are PHMSA-Regulated Facilities with Underground Tanks also Regulated under the EPA?

Q: Under what conditions are the underground tanks at a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulated facility regulated under the EPA?

A: At PHMSA-regulated facilities, PHMSA provides regulatory oversight of underground tanks that are in “transportation,” including transmission or mainlines entering or exiting midstream facilities or storage units. The EPA and the states regulate underground tanks used for “non-transportation” purposes under the federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) program (for oil storage) and under federal and state underground storage tank regulations.

Occasionally, a tank may fall under the jurisdiction of both PHMSA and the EPA. For example, dual jurisdiction is exercised when a bulk storage container serves as a tank storing oil while also serving as a breakout tank for a pipeline or other transportation purpose. The EPA and PHMSA released a Memorandum of Understanding in 2000 that outlines various examples of facilities showing jurisdictional delineation which should help ease confusion.

To determine obtain whether PHMSA or the EPA regulates, it is essential to determine the purpose of the storage as that dictates which regulations apply.