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Underground Storage Tanks (USTs)

Benefits, Impacts, and Studies of Preventing and Cleaning Up UST Releases

Read about the benefits of EPA’s UST program in preventing and cleaning up UST releases.  

EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics conducted studies and published working papers about the effect of underground storage tank releases on property values and the benefits of preventing, cleaning up, and reusing formerly contaminated UST sites.  

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Results from EPA’s study suggest that increased UST compliance in Louisiana is a result of increasing inspection frequency from approximately every six years to every three years as required under the Energy Policy Act.  EPA’s statistical model, using Louisiana’s UST data, showed a positive and statistically significant effect of increased inspection frequency on facility compliance.  In the study, EPA examined the impact of changes in inspection frequency on compliance by combining UST facility-level data from Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality with data on the socioeconomic and biophysical characteristics of the facilities’ location

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An EPA-ORD pilot study published in the December 2017 Science of The Total Environment used data from Oklahoma and estimated that approximately 30 percent of USTs in Oklahoma have at least one private domestic well within 300 meters (or 1,000 feet), the possible extent of contamination from an UST release that impacts groundwater.  This pilot study illustrates the potential impact of UST releases on drinking water and the public, and it highlights the importance of strong release prevention and cleanup programs.  Because basic information on locations of private wells is typically unavailable, this study presents two methods that can be used to estimate the proximity of private domestic wells to underground storage tank sites. EPA is now working to expand the study nationally.

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EPA’s regulatory impact analysis for the 2015 UST regulations discussed the economic benefits of revising the UST regulations to reflect technology improvements, address outdated requirements, and place a stronger emphasis on operations and maintenance. 

  • Assessment Of The Potential Costs, Benefits, And Other Impacts Of The Final Revisions To EPA’s Underground Storage Tank Regulations (PDF) (167 pp, 2.5 MB, About PDF) 
    monetized a number of positive impacts of the 2015 UST regulation.  Specifically, EPA estimated that the 2015 UST regulation will avoid total costs of between $120 million per year to $530 million per year.  This includes avoided remediation costs from avoided releases and avoided groundwater contamination incidents; avoided vapor intrusion remediation costs; and avoided product loss.  Avoided remediation costs associated with conventional UST systems form the majority of positive impacts from the 2015 UST regulation.  

    The analysis also quantified, but did not value, groundwater impacts.  EPA estimated that the 2015 UST regulation could potentially protect 50 billion to 240 billion gallons of groundwater each year.  These categories of nonmonetizable or nonquantifiable benefits are qualitatively discussed in this analysis:  avoidance of human health risks; mitigation of acute exposure events and large-scale releases (for example, releases from airport hydrant fuel distribution systems and field-constructed tanks); protection of ecological biota; and avoided property devaluation.

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