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What Is The History Of The Federal Underground Storage Tank Program?

Until the mid-1980s most underground storage tanks (USTs) were made of bare steel, which is likely to corrode over time and allow UST contents to leak into the environment. The greatest potential hazard from a leaking UST is that its contents (petroleum or other hazardous substances) can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans.

To address a nationwide problem of leaking USTs, Congress passed a series of laws to protect human health and the environment.

1984: Subtitle I was added to the Solid Waste Disposal Act through the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments
  • Created a federal program to regulate USTs containing petroleum and hazardous chemicals to limit corrosion and structural defects and thus minimize future tank leaks
  • Directed EPA to set operating requirements and technical standards for tank design and installation, leak detection, spill and overfill control, corrective action, and tank closure
1986: Subtitle I was amended through the Superfund Amendments Reauthorization Act
  • Authorized EPA to respond to petroleum spills and leaks
  • Directed EPA to establish financial responsibility requirements for UST owners and operators to cover the cost of taking corrective actions and to compensate third parties for injury and property damage caused by leaking tanks
  • Created a Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund
    The Fund is used to oversee cleanups by responsible parties, enforce cleanups by recalcitrant parties, and pay for cleanups at sites where the owner or operator is unknown, unwilling, or unable to respond, or where emergency action is required
2005: Energy Policy Act of 2005 amended Subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act
  • Added new leak detection and enforcement provisions to the program
  • Required that all regulated USTs be inspected every three years
  • Expanded the use of the LUST Trust Fund
  • Required EPA to develop grant guidelines regarding operator training, inspections, delivery prohibition, secondary containment, financial responsibility, public record, and state compliance reports on government USTs
  • Required EPA to develop a strategy and publish a report regarding USTs in Indian Country
2009: American Recovery And Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) Exit EPA Disclaimer
  • Provided a one-time supplemental appropriation of $200 million from the LUST Trust Fund to EPA for cleaning up leaks from federally regulated USTs.
  • Majority of funds ($190.7 million) allocated to states/territories in the form of assistance agreements to address shovel ready sites within their jurisdictions.

A complete version of the law that governs underground storage tanks (USTs) is available in the U.S. Code, Title 42, Chapter 82, Subchapter IX Exit EPA Disclaimer. This law incorporates amendments to Subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act as well as the UST provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and gives EPA the authority to regulate USTs.

More information on how EPA implemented the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is available at http://www.epa.gov/oust/eparecovery/index.htm.

Use this link for additional information on EPA's laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to USTs.

Because of the large size and diversity of the regulated community, states and territories are the primary implementers of the UST program.

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