ILTA Seeks EPA Guidance on Delaying Out-of-Service Tank Inspections
ILTA, on behalf of its members, is seeking to defer out-of-service inspections required under federal law as storage reaches capacity across the nation. With tanks rapidly approaching full usage because of a massive glut of crude and refined products, as drivers heed government lockdown measures, operators have been unable to drain them in order to carry out internal checks.
As a result, ILTA has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for explicit permission to defer certain inspections until oil demand recovers and storage levels return to normal.
EPA requires that a tank be taken out of service for an internal inspection once a decade. Normally, owners remove around 10% of their tanks from service every year in a rotating slate to meet that requirement. Unprecedented demand from producers to store oil is hindering that effort.
EPA has provided general pandemic guidance on enforcement, saying that if it is impossible or reasonably impractical to conduct certain inspections, it would review after the fact to determine if the company was complying. But it has yet to provide explicit guidance on once-a-decade, out-of-service tank inspection, which is troublesome for the terminal industry, which prides itself on regulatory compliance.
ILTA is seeking a meeting with EPA to discuss the issue.
In a coup for ILTA, Bloomberg News picked up the story. “Technically, to be in compliance is a physical impossibility,” said ILTA President Kathryn Clay. “We need to be able to defer those out-of-service inspections to a time when it’s physically possible to conduct them.”
In the Bloomberg piece, Clay noted that operators, to every extent possible, have been able to consolidate existing stocks to free up space, but added that industry tests to do that anyway, even without a pandemic. “The truth is there’s not a lot of room for creativity,” Clay said in the article.
ILTA is not asking EPA for all inspections to be deferred, saying that its members are willing to step up in-service checks of terminals that are in operation to appease regulators, with the aim being to resume the more-thorough checks once the crisis passes.