Underground Storage Tanks (USTs)

State Underground Storage Tank (UST) Programs

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What is the role of states in regulating underground storage tanks?

EPA recognizes that, because of the size and diversity of the regulated community, state and local governments are in the best position to oversee USTs:

  • State and local authorities are closer to the situation in their domain and are in the best position to set priorities.
  • Subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act allows state UST programs approved by EPA to operate in lieu of the federal program.
  • The state program approval (SPA) regulations set criteria for states to obtain the authority to operate in lieu of the federal program. State programs must be at least as stringent as EPA's.

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How do states receive program approval?

EPA's regional offices coordinate the state program approval process for states and territories under their jurisdiction. EPA regional officials work closely with state officials while state programs are under development.

Once state legislatures enact statutes and state agencies develop regulations in accord with EPA requirements and put other necessary components of a program in place, states may apply for formal approval. EPA must respond to applications within 180 days.

A state program is approved if it is judged to meet three criteria:

  1. It sets standards for eight performance criteria that are no less stringent than federal standards.
  2. It contains provisions for adequate enforcement.
  3. It regulates at least the same USTs as are regulated under federal standards.

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What must states do to apply or re-apply for state program approval under the 2015 underground storage tank regulation?

Under the 2015 state program approval (SPA) regulation, the 38 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which currently have SPA, must reapply by October 13, 2018 in order to retain their SPA status.  The remaining 16 non-SPA states and territories may apply for SPA at any time.

EPA’s regional offices coordinate the state program approval process for states and territories under their jurisdiction.  EPA regional officials will work closely with state officials while states are developing their programs.

In July 2015, EPA published the 2015 underground storage tank regulation and the 2015 state program approval regulation.  The 2015 UST regulation changes certain portions of the 1988 underground storage tank technical regulation in 40 CFR part 280.  The 2015 state program approval regulation updates requirements in 40 CFR part 281 and incorporates the changes in the UST technical regulation. 

This flowchart and table, which describe the process for states to apply and re-apply for SPA under the 2015 UST regulation, will help states and territories develop their state program approval applications. 

A state’s SPA application must include these six components.

  • Governor’s letter (Sample Governor's Letter from Oregon (DOCX)(1 pg, 133 K) )  – The Governor’s letter transmits a state’s application for approval of its UST program and acts as a formal request for EPA approval.  The letter should include a reference to the federal statute, a request for approval of the state program, and the Governor’s signature.
  • Attorney General’s certification and statement (Sample Attorney General Certification and Statement from Idaho (DOCX)(41 pp, 79 K) ) – The Attorney General must certify that the statutes and regulations of a state provide adequate authority to carry out the technical requirements and enforce these requirements.
  • Demonstration of “Adequate Enforcement” procedures (Sample Demonstration of Adequate Enforcement from Oregon (DOCX)(12 pp, 35 K) ) – This document demonstrates a state’s ability to enforce the technical regulations.
  • Memorandum of agreement template (DOCX)(7 pp, 27 K) – This document provides recommended language to use in drafting a memorandum of agreement between a state and EPA region.
  • Program description (Sample Program Description from Idaho (DOCX)(13 pp, 35 K) ) – This description provides an overview of a state’s program for managing USTs.  This should include the scope of the state program, organization and structure of the implementing agencies, and staff resources for implementation.
  • State statutes and regulations (XLSX)(1 pg, 40 K) – This document provides states and regions with a comparison of state UST regulations and federal UST regulations. 

After EPA approves a state’s application, EPA regions will publish notice of the final approval in the Federal Register.

States with Approved UST Programs and Federal Register Notices; scroll to Idaho (approved in 2012) and Oregon (approved in 2011) for the most recent examples

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Which states have approved programs?

As of September 2016, 38 states and the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have approved state programs. The states with approved programs are: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Map of states with approved programs as of September 2016

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What are the benefits of state program approval?

Owners and operators in states that have an approved UST program do not have to deal with two sets of statutes and regulations (state and federal) that may be conflicting. Once their programs are approved, states have the lead role in UST program enforcement. In states without an approved program, EPA will work with state officials in coordinating UST enforcement actions.

All 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have a comprehensive set of UST leak prevention and release detection regulations and a program to implement those regulations. Additionally, all states have cleanup programs. Even for states without SPA, EPA enters into grant or cooperative agreements with state programs, and the state program is designated as the primary implementing agency. While both federal and state regulations apply in states without SPA, the state regulations are generally just as stringent as, and oftentimes significantly more stringent than, EPA's regulations.

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Need more information about a particular state's program?

If need further assistance, contact the EPA regional office or the UST/LUST program in your state or territory. The program office is usually located in the state environmental agency. Program staff will provide information or referrals.

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