Will Environmental Compliance Change in 2018?

Posted by Sarah Blackman on 2017-05-22

Despite a lot of hand wringing over the future of the EPA budget, there have been few changes to date. It is good business practice to understand and prepare for the EPA’s direction and corresponding budget.

Gas station owners and operators want to know how new priorities affect day to day decisions, especially around the practice of regular compliance reporting. Will requirements change as well?

The EPA budget focus shifts to reflect new goals centered on domestic energy production and economic development. Part of this goal is expansion of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development to examine core environmental regulations and requirements.

The Three Es: Environment, Economy, Engagement

The new administration seeks to reduce the burden of environmental regulations that have no proven environmental benefits. This includes a large focus on what EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calls the “Three Es” – environment, economy, and engagement.

The EPA will continue to protect the environment while improving the economy and remaining engaged with state and local governments for regulation enforcement.

In keeping with the Three Es, Pruitt is reviewing legislation that would allow E15 fuel (made with 15% ethanol) to be sold year-round – thereby supporting domestic corn producers without negatively impacting the environment.

The House recently passed legislation to restructure scientific review boards. Pruitt is now exploring replacing positions previously held by academic scientists with representatives from regulatory agencies to help the EPA “understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.”

The reasoning behind this new direction is clear: the current administration seeks to bring jobs back to Americans and keep the government from over-regulating industries.

Current Status Of Environmental Regulations & Compliance

States are no longer required to comply with the Clean Power Plan, which imposed strict regulations and threatened over 125,000 jobs without marked environmental benefits (full compliance would have resulted in a reduction in global sea level rise by just 0.01” by 2100).

That said, the EPA continues to enforce implementation of the 2015 underground storage tank requirements, including cleanup, compliance, and insurance regulations for USTs. Site assessment records, walkthrough inspections every 30 days, and equipment testing must be completed by October 2018, and all tanks installed after October 13, 2015 must meet these requirements at installation.

UST release detection equipment must still be tested annually and records kept for at least three years – including a list of components tested, whether each component passed or needed work, and any follow-up maintenance.

This isn’t the first time the EPA has required gas station owners to adhere to stricter new regulations: in 1988, UST owners were required to either purchase pollution insurance or prove financial financial responsibility for potential cleanups. Although the future of many independent gas stations at the time was uncertain, the feared closure of up to 18 percent of retail gas stations did not come to pass. An average of just over 2,000 stations closed annually between 2005 and 2013, less than 0.1% of the nearly 150,000 fuel stations in the country.

Market research has shown customers are willing to take on part of the costs associated with these regulations and the requirements have helped gas station owners avoid crippling cleanup fees.

As of mid FY 2017, here’s how underground storage tanks stacked up against current compliance goals:

• 4,106 cleanups toward an annual goal of 8,600 or more

• 72.9% operational compliance against a goal of 71.5%

• 13% of confirmed releases awaiting cleanup against a goal of 12% or less

• 43,211 on-site inspections conducted within the previous 6 months

• 1.8 million USTs were properly closed according to current regulations

Changes to the EPA will take time to unfold. In the meantime, gas station owners can begin by adopting the agency’s Next Generation Compliance guidelines that encourage electronic reporting that allows more accurate, complete, and efficient environmental reporting.

Affordable, environmentally friendly technology for gas station owners and operators complies with the Next Generation standards, and future proofs business practices.

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