By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
Consultant perspective: EPA, the final rule, and mobile fuel trucks
The Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of making its final rule on Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure requirements as they relate to airports and their tenants. A key issue that has arisen encompasses fuel trucks and whether or not they require secondary containment. Industry is seeking to get a one-year hiatus on the reg, which is pending. AIRPORT BUSINESS recently interviewed environmental consultant Sarah Smith on the subject. Here are some excerpts.
Smith heads her own environmental consulting firm, Madison Environ-mental Group, based in Boxford, MA. She has consulted airports, fixed base operators, and airlines around the U.S., most notably serving as director of environmental affairs for the Signature Flight Support chain of FBOs.
AIRPORT BUSINESS: Can you update us on the SPCC rule and why it’s an issue today?
Smith: In part, the issues we face today with SPCC are a direct result of rulemaking which in my opinion did not specifically target the aviation industry. Industry groups are now rightfully challenging EPA on the application of SPCC at airports, post final rulemaking. The SPCC requirements were originally promulgated under the authority of the Clean Water Act in December 1973. Since then, the EPA amended the SPCC requirements a number of times from 1991 through 1999. The final Rule was effective in August 2002. These amendments that were made prior to the final rule addressed secondary containment issues and requirements for the written SPCC Plan. In 1996, the EPA completed a survey to assess certain SPCC regulated facilities and used the data in the 1997 proposed rulemaking. The objective was to collect data that could be applied to SPCC-regulated facilities across the country. I believe this is where the issue at airport facilities started because their limited survey data does not fit the aviation mold.
Apparently, EPA claims it has always treated mobile fuel trucks as stationary tanks; they treat them as above ground storage tanks.
It wasn’t until the last couple of years that EPA started to question why the aviation industry wasn’t regulating the mobile fuel trucks the same way they regulate their fuel systems.
I think, nationwide, there’s a communication problem between the regional offices of
EPA and headquarters. That in itself has been difficult.
AB: If I’m an airport manager, what does this mean to me?
Smith: I’d be looking at the information they already have in hand from other compliance plans, like the storm-water plan, which should identify the location of parked fuel trucks and a description of the drainage system in those areas. Basically you’re trying to prevent oil discharges to any U.S. waters. Implementation of strong SPCC measures should adequately address those concerns for parked fuel trucks, eliminating the need for containment dikes. Certainly there are situations where curbing may help with drainage issues, however the primary concern with the rule is EPA’s application of spill containment to the truck. Operators of the fuel systems should have the SPCC Plans on file unless the airport controls the system.
AB: An interesting aspect of this has been that many FBOs would have designed ramps to accommodate this if they’d have known about it.
Smith: I think it’s confirmation that EPA is not consistent about implementation of its own rule. The rule is poorly written and in my opinion is not applicable to aviation. It appears they left us out of the 1996 survey.
Sarah Smith can be contacted at (978) 352-5086.
Sen. Inhofe Tells EPA: ’Fuel Trucks Are Not Storage’
On February 3, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Christine Todd-Whitman regarding his concern about regulating aviation refuelers as storage tanks. Some excerpts ...
"Recent actions by several [EPA] regional offices regarding interpretation of the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule has raised serious concerns for this important segment of our air transportation system.
"... It is my understanding that over the past year a number of aviation fuel providers have been notified by EPA that per SPCC their fuel trucks are subject to ’secondary containment’ requirements while the trucks are parked. The EPA contends that these trucks are mobile or portable storage facilities subject to existing regulation ...
"... The application of this particular requirement to fuel trucks is a new interpretation of these rules. Long-standing interpretations hold that airport-based fuel trucks are not storage facilities but transportation vehicles subject to DOT regulations.
"The physical requirements needed to comply with such a rule run counter to the safe and secure operation of airports.
"Having worked with the aviation industry for a number of years, I know they take their responsibilities for maintaining the environment very seriously. In fact, their facilities have in place oil spill containment and control plans providing the equipment and manpower to address any spills likely to occur.
"... If the agency would issue appropriate policy guidance confirming the status of aviation fuel trucks ... this could be resolved."