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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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EPA's Office of Research and Development has been conducting studies of the proximity of private domestic wells to underground storage tank (UST) sites in order to assess potential impact of UST releases on drinking water and the public.  These studies highlight the importance of strong release prevention and cleanup programs.  A pilot study was published in December 2017 using data from Oklahoma.  A second report, also published in 2017, evaluated various mapping and plume transport tools in assessing vulnerability of drinking water sources to potential releases from leaking USTs.
EPA is now working to expand the Oklahoma pilot study to the entire U.S.

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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regulations discussed the economic benefits of revising the UST regulations to reflect technology improvements, address outdated requirements, and place a stronger emphasis on operations and maintenance.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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The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Evidence Works:  Cases Where Evidence Meaningfully Informed Policy Exit is a compilation of 20 case studies that demonstrates how evidence matters in reaching policy decisions.  Let’s Talk About LUST:  EPA’s Underground Storage Tanks Program, which begins on page 106, focuses on evidence-based federal policy making in the leaking underground storage tanks program.  EPA’s case study focuses on our 2011 backlog study.