Refueler focus

May 8, 2002

Refueler focus

Two EPA regions say refuelers are storage, need secondary containment

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

May 2002

In Texas and Wisconsin, FBOs who operate aircraft refuelers are being told by their regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency that the vehicles
represent storage, and need secondary containment when stationary. The surprise issue is now being fought in Washington.

For this article, the topic first came to light at a committee meeting in Indianapolis of the National Air Transportation Association, prior to its annual convention. David Kennedy, manager of government and industry affairs for NATA, explained that the association was preparing to meet with the national EPA. Other associations looking into the matter include the Air Transport Association (airlines) and the American Association of Airport Executives (airports).

At the NATA convention, which attracts fixed base operators - the refueling companies - few had heard of the EPA interpretation. Included in that group were fuel suppliers and refueler OEMs. Broadbrush, what many in industry are asking includes:

o Why hasn't it been brought up before, particularly when fuel storage and secondary containment were among the hottest issues for airports and FBOs for more than ten years?
o Are the Texas and Wisconsin cases only the beginning of a national directive from EPA?
o How would one reasonably provide secondary containment for refuelers, which are generally mobile?

CITING 40CFR112.7E2xi
Explains one fuel supplier, "From what I understand from several customers who've been involved in this, the EPA is citing 40CFR112.7E2xi -that's the section that says mobile and portable oil storage tanks on shore should be positioned or located so as to prevent spills from reaching navigable waters. A secondary means of containment, such as dikes, should be furnished for the largest single compartment or tank. These facilities should be located where they will not be subject to periodic flooding or washout.

"They are taking mobile and portable storage tanks and applying it to refueler trucks."

Dr. Barbara Carr, SPCC coordinator for Region 5 of the Environmental Protection Agency, says airports should have been complying with this interpretation since 1974, when the first SPCC (Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures) legislation passed. She has no explanation as to why it took so many years before it became a high profile issue, and points out that airports that have overall spill control systems in place - ones that capture any runoff on the airfield - are already in compliance.

Two operations are currently in the midst of remedying a negative EPA inspection report due to not having secondary containment in place for their refuelers: Business Jet Center at Love Field, Dallas; and, in Mosinee, WI, the Central Wisconsin Airport and its FBO, Central Wisconsin Aviation.

Jason Ponds is assistant FBO manager for Business Jet Center, in its fifth year of refueling aircraft at the Dallas downtown airport. He is awaiting word from EPA after his company's response to the agency's inspection and results, which called for providing secondary containment for refueler vehicles.

Explains Ponds, "We don't have fuel storage trucks; we have fuel delivery trucks.

"The new interpretation of an old rule is now that secondary containment must be used for these refueler trucks. Now, it depends on who you talk to, on when and how and where you need this secondary containment.

"Our fuel trucks are constantly mobile. There is no way to put secondary containment around a moving object - not even when it's parked, because we are 24 hours."

Ponds says his company already had a strong spill prevention and control training program in place, as well as quality control, and the FBO recently relocated its spill response gear closer to the vehicle area.

"It's not a question of we don't want to incur costs or don't know how to do spill prevention; this cannot be done," says Ponds.

Central Wisconsin Aviation leases its fuel farm from the airport, and consequently airport manager James Hansford is fronting the discussion with the EPA's Chicago office. Both FBO and airport are concerned about the costs that will need to be incurred once EPA expressly outlines how secondary containment for refuelers can be attained long-term.

According to FBO general manager Pat Kelley, "The fuel farm is about a mile away on another part of the airport. We're parking our fuel trucks there within the existing containment area, so we're in compliance."

Hansford says the action resulted from a September, 2000 inspection by EPA. "They have said," explains Hansford, "that the entire airport is part of an oil storage facility and that any tank holding 660 gallons or more of a petroleum product is a mobile oil storage tank. Since this is not a recognized element of transportation, then we the airport come under the purview of the EPA as opposed to the DOT.

"The main issue is when the refuelers are stationary and parked, but they are stationary and parked all over the airport."

Hansford says in 33 years he has never heard of a refueler suddenly discharging product, and says the FBO diligently keeps an eye on the units. "Kelley parks them right in front of the window at the FBO, on concrete, 400 feet from the edge of the ramp. If they were to miraculously spring a leak, we could very quickly contain it."