TCEQ’s Current Rules

In 1999, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rolled out the current Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP), a comprehensive set of risk-based procedures for investigating and cleaning up contaminated properties regulated by a wide range of TCEQ program areas (Chapter 350 of the Texas Administrative Code). TRRP promised a more consistent application of TCEQ’s preferred policy of managing environmental contamination using a risk-based approach. For cleanups of leaking petroleum storage tanks (LPST) sites, TRRP applied to releases discovered on or after Sept. 1, 2003. LPST sites discovered before that date fell under the old LPST rules (Chapter 334 in the Texas Administrative Code).

TRRP Inefficiencies at Low-Risk Sites

While the TRRP process is designed to ensure a robust risk analysis and protective site closure, in some cases its extensive assessment, reporting and technical requirements may be regulatory overkill. As a result, TRRP, including the requirements of the Affected Property Assessment Report, can add unnecessary delay and costs to closures at mildly-contaminated, low-risk sites.

LPST Rules Provide an Established Record of Risk-Based Cleanups

The LPST rules in Chapter 334, on the other hand, implemented a risk-based cleanup approach as early as 1995. With more than 21,000 pre-TRRP cleanups at LPST sites, Chapter 334 established a proven track record for achieving closure in an efficient manner. When the LPST sites switched to the TRRP, many cleanups were unnecessarily delayed by the additional TRRP requirements.

Proposed Rule Change

As a result of comments by parties involved in LPST cleanups, TCEQ has proposed to change its rules so that cleanups at LPST sites would no longer fall under the TRRP system but would once again be governed by the prior LPST program. The proposed return to the Chapter 334 rules likely will simplify the closure process, while still protecting the environment. TCEQ estimates that the proposed rule change could lead to cost savings ranging from $10,000 to $140,000 at low-risk sites. In addition, the change may encourage cleanups at abandoned LPST sites by streamlining the closure process and avoiding higher costs associated with TRPP’s assessment, delineation, and off-site access requirements.

Upcoming Dates for Rulemaking and Public Comment

Anticipated Texas Register publication date: Nov. 21, 2008 Public comment period: Nov. 21, 2008 – Dec. 22, 2008 Public hearing date (if any): Dec.16, 2008 Anticipated adoption date: Feb. 25, 2009

Conclusion

Considering the potential benefits of streamlined cleanup procedures, TCEQ’s proposed rule change is something that current and former owners and operators of petroleum storage tank properties should embrace and consider providing comments during the above time period.

Link to the pending proposal on the TCEQ web site.