When Maryland’s attorney general announced, in mid-September, a $4 million civil penalty against a single Exxon Mobil service station for failing to carry out required leak detection precautions — resulting in undetected releases — rental car companies operating fuel storage systems should have taken notice.
The Exxon Mobil civil penalty was the highest environmental civil penalty the state ever levied. But it is not an isolated event.
In May, Jiffy Lube agreed to pay $500,000 to settle charges that its employees were not conducting required visual inspections of its oil and used oil storage containers.
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slapped a $3.2 million fine on an operator of 23 service stations in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia for failing to assure compliance with leak detection, corrosion protection and overfill and spill prevention requirements.
A 2005 federal law requiring states to conduct more frequent and more rigorous inspections of fuel systems in order to qualify for federal funds may be prompting this stepped-up enforcement activity.
There is no reason to believe that rental car companies operating fuel storage systems will be immune from more frequent inspections and enforcement actions.
Know the New Rules
This article can barely scratch the surface of the many rules governing the operation of fuel storage systems. There are three areas of rapidly evolving changes; however, that deserve the attention of rental car companies operating fuel storage systems.
Controlling Air Emissions
Fuel storage and dispensing facilities release vapors in two ways: when fuel is delivered and when fuel is dispensed.
To capture vapors that would otherwise escape when fuel is being delivered, Stage I devices are required. Stage II devices are required to capture vapors that would escape when vehicles are fueled. Most states with smoggy areas require fuel storage facilities to install Stage I vapor recovery equipment certified by the California Air Resources Board. In this way, California has set the equipment standard for the rest of the country. California has “enhanced” vapor recovery requirements for both Stage I and II (referred to as “Phases” in California).
In January 2008, EPA issued a new rule directed at controlling vapor releases during fuel deliveries. The new federal rule applies to gasoline storage tanks at locations that dispense 10,000 gallons or greater of gasoline in any 30-day period, which may only apply to high volume rental car operations.
Secondary Containment of Leaks
Secondary containment systems are designed to contain any potential leaks from the primary tank, piping and dispensing system. Secondary containment refers to those devices that capture releases from those components, such as dispenser pans, sumps where lines connect atop tanks and the interstices of double-walled tanks and lines.
This is another area in which states have imposed stricter requirements than the federal government. California and Florida have distinct secondary containment requirements for tanks, which are more stringent than federal or other states’ rules.