Looking Back: Observations Before the UST Operator Training Deadline

January 13, 2014

portraitBenRecently I was going over some old newsletters from 2008-10, in a time where many of states were struggling to decide what to do about the UST operators rules. Some interesting observations from the pre-deadline world. Any of this ring a bell for you?


Training Tip. Designate Operators Before the Rules Kick In (January 2009)

One question we get repeatedly from UST operators is” Who needs training?” Even States with existing laws like Oregon and Kansas, as well as Federal EPA grant guidelines, provide general pointers but don’t exactly spell it out in black and white. The intent of defining Class A, B and C operators in general terms was and is to allow UST owners to determine how best to match their own organizations structure with the operator classification scheme. Hospitals, convenient stores, military installations, and fueling fleets all have very different organizational hierarchies. So don’t expect to see a one-size-fits-all approach. Think about it general terms. Think about how your group, company, tribe or division can be organized (or reorganized) to meet the letter and spirit of the training rules.

It is our opinion that many UST violations are the result not of failed tank equipment but rather the failure of management to assign and document duties of the staff who are supposed to collectively assure compliance. One potentially large benefit of training of forcing a tank owner to realign their management system to ensure all compliance duties are covered.



“Oregon’s underground storage tank facilities have improved their compliance with state and federal standards, according to a report issued last month by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). In the past year, DEQ officials inspected 28 percent of the state’s 2,043 tank facilities. Of those facilities, 84 percent complied with the standards. When DEQ inspected the facilities four years ago, only 57 percent complied.” PTS have been doing operator training in Oregon for the last 5 years. Is there a correlation between UST operator training and increased compliance? Oregon cites other possible factors like the new enforcement program, contractor training and more inspectors, but PTS believes that providing over 60 courses to over 1,100 operators has made a difference.


What to Make of Class C operators? (July 2009)

Class C operators: the person in your company who may be the first to see, smell or hear a problem.  Who are they really? A full service fueling attendant in Oregon? A C-store employee behind the deli counter? An emergency generator plant operator? An employee at a car rental company who fills up vehicles?  Many companies have lots of employees. Who among them qualifies to be a Class C operator? This decision has to be made by UST owners at most facilities by August of 2009. We don’t have to tell you it’s not always an easy decision.

What we do know: Class C operators must be trained between August 2009 of 2012 (sooner in a few states).  They must know how to respond to spills, leaks and alarms.  Starting in 2012 they must be trained before assuming duties.

What we don’t know: The biggest wildcard is what sort of coverage of Class C operators must the typical UST have? According to draft and existing rules, it depends. Some states like Oregon don’t specify in the rules how many or how often a Class C operator must be in site.  Some states, like Colorado, say have one Class C Operator on-site during normal business hours. Some States like Ohio, allow for unmanned sites to be “trained” via clearly marked signs that instruct what do to in case of an emergency. What will you do? How much must they know? Again, depends. States like Wyoming want Class C operators be ready to show inspectors line leak detectors and impressed current rectifiers but mist states are vague as to what’s covered.


Operator Training on Trial (October 2010)

Petroleum Training Solutions staff Marcel Marceau, Steve Purpora and Ben Thomas recently attended the national underground storage tank conference in Boston Massachusetts September 20-22, 2010 along with about 700 other UST regulators, operators and consultants and vendors

Because we were approved to lead a session workshop on operator training, We tried something new; rather than a panel of talking heads, we staged a mock trial: We pretended it was 2012, the national training deadline passed, and Environment was suing Operator Training for not doing its job at preventing UST leaks and spills. Numerous testimony was provided, witnesses were cross-examined, and the judge Ellen Frye of LUSTLine carefully monitored activities, often with a humorous deadpan. Both parties spoke on their own behalf at the closing statements.

Because it was a trial and we needed someone to render a verdict, the audience acted as the jury. What followed was something we didn’t quite expect: a very spirited exchange regulators and operators about what did and did not work from both perspectives. States needed and expected to be able to provide training in a method they saw fit, while large operators have difficulty managing numerous training requirements over multiple states. A number of attendees agreed afterwards that the discussion itself was great because it was so candid in sometime so raw; it gave people a lot to think about how to bring operator training successfully to their state or company. Ironically the final verdict was neither innocent nor guilty but mostly innocent and on probation until more data could be gathered.


Instructor’s Corner (January 2010)

It’s the last full calendar year before the August 8th, 2012 deadline. That’s 573 days from today. The reason I’m aware of this is because we can’t get our phone to stop ringing and our email in-box from overflowing. Small mom and pops. Federal agencies. Large c-store chains. Municipalities. Utility companies. Transport firms. From California to Alabama to New York to Michigan and Colorado and everywhere in between, folks seem to abuzz with the question: what will I do to meet the training deadline in my state? Common concerns include:

“My state doesn’t have rules yet but I want to be ready and train now.”

“I’m in multiple states with different rules and I just want a single training plan but the states don’t allow reciprocity.”

“I want to give my employees training options but no one firm does it all.”

“I’m not sure how the state is going to make sure everyone’s trained. What if I take the plunge and spend the money but the state doesn’t enforce on my competitors?”

For those hoping to read this column and get concrete answers, sorry. We are deep in the frontier of uncharted outcomes. What states will decide on final rules, plus enforcing them, remains to be seen. Will states accept reciprocity (accepting approval from another state) even though the rules are slightly different?

Surprising, when I ask, most folks have a pretty decent handle of the terms of A/B/C operators and have a basic idea on who might end up with those designations in their respective companies. So most folks we talk to seem to know the scope of what they need to do. They just don’t know how to do it.

Added to the uncertainty is the emerging market of solutions: live, online, webinars, exams, onsite. Some trainers are new, some out of retirement, some are selling another environmental service and training is a way to get them more business.

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