New U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows that the 2015 federal underground storage tank (UST) regulations are doing their job. Compliance with key UST performance measures is climbing. However, the nation’s backlog of yet-to-be-cleaned-up UST sites remains high. The Semiannual 2021 Fiscal Year UST Performance Report (October 2020 – March 2021) shows impressive gains in compliance rates, as compared to the Semiannual 2020 Fiscal Year UST Performance Report (October 2019 – March 2020).
Active UST count declines. When the 2015 EPA regulations were issued, the U.S. had 569,340 operating USTs. The semiannual 2021 report shows that number has fallen to 540,329. C-store consolidation doubtless has played a role in the decline. Another factor is how fuel marketers are responding to the regulations. For some owners and operators, closing an aging UST system is a reasonable alternative to investing in costly testing, inspection and upgrades.
Cleanup backlog persists. The semiannual 2021 report shows 2,395 confirmed releases and 3,439 completed cleanups between October 2020 and March 2021. Nationwide, 63,048 cleanups have yet to be completed. That is down from 63,677 one year ago and 72,248 in 2015.