Confusion, Frustration

May 16, 2005
Associate editor Jodi Richards talks with operators, industry, and EPA regarding EPA's secondary containment requirement for refueler trucks.

It would seem that the letter from the Environmental Protection Agency, intended to clarify EPA's stance on secondary containment for refuelers under its Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures rule in 40 CFR Part 112, has only led to more questions and even disappointment for operators. AIRPORT BUSINESS recently spoke with operators, as well as industry and EPA representatives to hear reactions and find out what happens next.

"Massive overkill," "frustrating," "impractical," "disappointing," and "does not make sense," are just some of the shared sentiments echoing throughout the industry regarding EPA's secondary containment requirement for mobile refuelers.

James Hansford, A.A.E., director, Central Wisconsin Regional Airport (Mosinee, WI), whose airport was among the first to undergo scrutiny from EPA on the issue, says he utilized the Freedom of Information Act to obtain data on exactly how many refueler-related spills the EPA had records of. He relates, "They didn't have one record of aircraft fuel trucks spontaneously leaking product... Be that as it may, EPA has decided to cause airports around the country to spend millions of dollars on something that none of us can even vaguely imagine a need for."

Hansford adds that whether or not this regulation is "logical" or has the ability to improve or protect water "is kind of moot. They [EPA] made the decision and we the industry did everything we could to inform them it was not a practical thing. And after review of their records that they provided me under the open records law, there was nothing that would indicate a need for this."

Some airports, Hansford expects, will have the finances to build containment basins, berms, etc. in order to comply. However, "I and a number of smaller airports simply won't have the wherewithal to do that. We're in a unique, but not envious situation; we're not given any tax dollars to operate. We have to do it all out of funds generated on the airport. If we pay for it, that means we simply have to recover it from the FBO or other tenants anyway."

Fargo Jet Center president James Sweeney agrees. "It's frustrating to see the recent correspondence from EPA and their not allowing an exemption for airport refuelers. I think there are much bigger issues across the country and hazards with fuel trucks than we have at airports today," he says.

Sweeney says aviation is being singled out in this regard, when it is likely that airport refuelers are more regulated than any other fuel trucks by FAA, not to mention being checked by the airport and local fire authorities and daily checks from staff.

Fargo Jet Center owns two fuel farms at Hector International Airport and Sweeney says he will "work closely with [the] municipal airport authority to meet the standards and fulfill the obligations that are required." He goes on to say that there is still confusion on what exactly will be required by EPA in order to meet its secondary containment regulation.

At Million Air Salt Lake City, William Haberstock agrees that the confusion on the regulation leaves many operators with questions. "There are an awful lot of unknowns on the operator's part of just where this stands and what it is," he says.

John Emery, president of Emery Air, Inc. based at Northwest Chicagoland Regional Airport at Rockford, says he is relying on the airport to provide guidance on the secondary containment issue. RFD does have two deice pads with 50,000 gallon tanks, which could serve as secondary containment.

An operator in the Eastern United States, who preferred not to be named, says he is waiting for direction from the National Air Transportation Association as well as guidance from the airport where he's based.


According to Beth Van Emburgh, manager of government and industry affairs for NATA, inspections have been going on since July 2002 when EPA released its revision of the 1974 rule. Some operators have reported receiving fines of $1,000 for not having an SPCC plan; with each part of the plan possibly being subject to other fines.

It would also seem that each of EPA's regions are handling the enforcement of the regulation differently. Says Van Emburgh, "There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of uniformity. For example, Region 5 (Chicago) went out there and really started hammering their operators; while Region 10 (Alaska) told the operators it doesn't apply to them."

NATA is advising operators to work with their airports to see how they are addressing the situation. "The EPA views an airport as an entire facility," says Van Emburgh. "Anything that's in the fence is a facility in the EPA's mind. They see a problem at an airport, they'll talk to the airport. The airport hands down the fine to the FBO to take care of it; and that can vary from airport to airport."

NATA, the American Association of Airport Executives, Airports Council International-North America, and the Air Transport Association have been working together to make the industry's position known. Van Emburgh says, "We are encouraging our members to contact their representatives on the hill about it. The more red flags that get raised on the hill side, I think will be helpful."


According to Dave Evans, director of the regulation and policy development division, EPA Office of Emergency Management, "when [refueler trucks] are out of service and they are no longer operating in a mobile manner, if there is fuel in the container then it needs to be located in a place that has sized secondary containment - that it would prevent a spill of the size of the largest container that's parked in there."

Evans explains that EPA has not specifically detailed what defines out of service. "We believe it's appropriate that that kind of determination is made on a facility-specific basis," he explains. "We don't think there are necessarily good, black and white, clear-cut rules for that... If one of those containers was full of fuel and was not operating for many, many hours or parked overnight, we could consider it, at that point, out of service, not operating." He adds that for an operation that is open 24 hours "it may be quite possible that that vehicle would never be out of service."

He goes on further to say that EPA has had a "number of discussions with some national representatives and they suggested a definition that we felt was so broad and encompassing that it wasn't clear to me when, if ever, one of those vehicles would be considered out of service.

"On the other hand, we don't believe that we know enough about the airlines' fueling operations that we're well-suited to prepare such a definition. So what we believe is that it is appropriately a decision that can be made by the facility owner and the professional engineer. And as long as it's well documented how their plan is addressing this, then we believe that generally that's going to meet the need."

Evans adds that it will be a "rare circumstance" where an EPA inspector would second guess what the properly developed and certified SPCC plan provided for, "as long as it seemed generally to address the requirements as we've explained they exist."

So for those operators who know they are not currently meeting the guidelines for secondary containment for mobile refuelers not actively engaged in fueling, Evans says enough dialogue has occurred within the industry for those operators to know "they are operating at risk."

"On the other hand," he says, "if they are uncertain as to what exactly is going to be expected, they're going to need some time to consult with a professional engineer... If they haven't covered these portable tankers in their plans, they really should be seeking professional expertise to take a look at that and begin the process of enhancing their plan to include them... I would say they're going to be best prepared if EPA were to show up at their facility if they have begun the process of consulting with the proper professionals to address this."