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EPA Reduces Regulatory Burden and Emissions From Large Storage Tanks By Allowing Alternative Inspection Method

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EPA Press Office (

WASHINGTON (January 11, 2021) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expanded the availability of a proven, modern inspection method for finding and correcting air pollution leaks at large liquid storage tanks. EPA’s final action offers regulatory flexibility to more than 3,500 petroleum, chemical, and coal products manufacturing facilities and petroleum bulk stations and terminals by allowing an alternate, less cumbersome mode of inspection of liquid storage tanks to show compliance with Clean Air Act regulations.

These amendments offer flexibility to conduct “in-service” rather than out-of-service inspections – potentially saving industry between $768,000 and $1,091,000 per year and reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds by as much as 83-tons per year. 

 “The Trump Administration is delivering on its promise to cut unnecessary regulatory costs while retaining important emissions reductions,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This action shows that environmental protection and a strong domestic energy industry go hand-in-hand.”

These amendments will allow owner/operators of certain large tanks known as Volatile Organic Liquid Storage Vessels to conduct less cumbersome “in-service” inspections of the tanks, without emptying and degassing the storage tank. Since 2018, EPA has received more than 300 requests from facilities seeking permission to conduct in-service inspections to demonstrate compliance with a 1987 Clean Air Act regulation. These one-off requests are time consuming and burdensome for both tank owners and operators and for EPA.  The current inspection methods can also be expensive, labor intensive and results in volatile organic compound air emissions and other pollutants from venting and flaring.

Further, EPA understands that in recent months inspecting these large tanks, while empty of product and vapors, has become more challenging because there is a significant increase in the need for liquid storage capacity (particularly crude and petroleum products), due to slower consumer demand.


In 1987, EPA promulgated New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) subpart Kb which applies to large storage tanks that store volatile organic liquids across a variety of industries, such as petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and portions of the oil and gas industry. To reduce volatile organic compound emissions from storage vessels, NSPS subpart Kb specifies, for certain tanks in certain circumstances, out of service inspections for holes and tears at least every 10 years, as well as monitoring, recordkeeping, reporting, and other requirements and to ensure compliance with the standards. In 1999, EPA finalized the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) subpart WW for storage vessels (tanks) that, in certain circumstances, allow for less cumbersome in-service inspections, without emptying and degassing the storage tank.

More information, including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and related fact sheet, is available at