EPA

Recent EPA rules require tank components to be inspected to make sure they remain safe and in good working order. 

Idaho fuel vendors would get more time to comply with federal regulations governing underground storage tanks under a proposal that backers say helps rural operators.

The Idaho House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee in late January endorsed, and recommended the state Legislature pass, House Bill 26. The bill would extend the compliance deadline by three years to Oct. 13, 2021.

Recent Environmental Protection Agency rules require tank components to be inspected to make sure they remain safe and in good working order. The agency set Oct. 13, 2018, as the compliance deadline but allowed states to which it granted administrative authority, including Idaho, to set their own deadlines.

Although the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality cooperates with fuel vendors who missed the original deadline but are working to comply, the extension is needed because the tight supply of specialized workers and equipment substantially reduces availability, HB 26 supporters said. The bill also would help make sure insurance for environmental cleanup stays in force.

“With every successive generation of rules, we see tanks pulled out of operation,” said Suzanne Budge of the Idaho Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, which initiated the bill. It’s a problem industrywide, “and it’s a problem for rural areas.”

Dennis Campo of Campo & Poole Distributing, which has operations in Fruitland, Idaho, and Ontario, Ore., told the committee that his systems comply but that some of the vendors he supplies could not meet the original deadline.

A short supply of materials and workers to meet strong demand means prices are up, and “the vendors doing the repairs are not getting around as fast as they need to, to get to everybody,” Campo said. For small operators, prices are high relative to the amount of fuel sold.

Costs for testing and equipment also increased in Idaho because workers have been racing to meet the current deadline, said Charley Jones, president of the Boise-based Stinker chain of 105 convenience stores in two states.

“If we pull back the implementation date, the work can be done, and at a reasonable cost,” he said.

The extension likely would help to moderate prices and increase service availability in the long run, benefiting small and rural fuel sellers in particular, Jones said.

EPA in 1998 required equipment such as spill buckets, sumps and overfill devices be installed on underground tank systems. The new rules, which Idaho enacted in March 2017 after EPA first proposed them in 2012, require this equipment to be tested at intervals.

Idaho DEQ, which publicized and developed training on the new rules starting in 2013, now typically tests the equipment every three years.

“Since the (October 2018) deadline, we have taken a flexible approach,” Idaho DEQ underground tank program manager Kristi Lowder said. “When we conduct an inspection at a facility that has not had the inspection or test completed, we work with the owner to come to a mutually agreeable time frame to complete the inspection and testing.”

DEQ estimates 62 percent of tanks already comply with the new rules, she said.

Farm and residential tanks with capacities of 1,100 gallons or less of motor fuel are exempt, as are tanks storing heating oil for on-site consumption.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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