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Tuesday, 17 April, 2012

NATA Comments on EPA Underground Tank Rule

 

April 16, 2012

 

EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC)

Mail Code 2822T

1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

Washington, DC 20460

 


Submitted electronically via www.regulations.gov

 


RE: Docket # EPA-HQ-UST–2011–0301, Revising Underground Storage Tank Regulations—Revisions to Existing Requirements and New Requirements for Secondary Containment and Operator Training

 

 


The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the voice of aviation business, is the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress, federal agencies and state governments.  NATA's 2,000 member companies own, operate and service aircraft.  These companies provide for the needs of the traveling public by offering services and products to aircraft operators and others such as fuel sales, aircraft maintenance, parts sales, storage, rental, airline servicing, flight training, Part 135 on-demand air charter, fractional aircraft program management and scheduled commuter operations in smaller aircraft.  NATA members are a vital link in the aviation industry providing services to the general public, airlines, general aviation and the military.  NATA’s Airline Service Council (ASC) represents local, regional, state and international aviation service providers that operate at 425 airports in 67 countries.  ASC member companies are an integral component of the national air transportation system (NAS) offering a broad range of airline- and airport-related services, including aircraft refueling.

 


With this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to modify the1988 underground storage tank (UST) technical, financial responsibility, and state program approval regulations.  As part of this rulemaking, the EPA also proposes removing the deferral for Airport Hydrant Fuel Distribution Systems (AHFDS) contained in the 1988 regulations.  The removal of this deferral would subject hydrant systems at certain U.S. commercial service airports to the UST regulations proposed in this NPRM.

 


NATA is very concerned with the EPA’s proposed removal of the deferral of AHFDSs.  This concern arises from the fact that, while the EPA appears to believe that this rulemaking will have little effect on commercial service airports, industry evaluations of the scope of this rulemaking indicate that the universe of affected commercial service airports could be 300-400 percent larger than estimated by the EPA.  Due to the nature of operations at commercial service airports, as well as their role in the national airspace system, such a “grey area” in scope of applicability and impact is intolerable.

 

 


Scope of Affected Commercial Service Airports

This rulemaking contains virtually no information on the EPA’s processes for determining the number of commercial service airports that would be affected by the removal of the deferral for AHDFs.  The Assessment of the Potential Costs, Benefits, and Other Impacts of the Proposed Revisions to EPA's Underground Storage Tank Regulations[1] contradicts itself by indicating that there only two commercial service airport hydrant systems meeting the definition of a covered AHFDS and also stating that military hydrant systems represent 100 percent of the possibly regulated AHFDS.  No information is provided on the methodology by which the EPA reached either of these contradictory assertions.  In the case of the assertion that two commercial service airports would be regulated, no information is provided regarding even to which airports the agency is referring.

 


The unsupported conclusion, that commercial service airports would not be affected by this rulemaking, permeates this rulemaking as the EPA assumes that virtually all regulated AHFDS will be at military facilities and thus tailors its discussion of the rule to those facilities.  The EPA’s assumption is also illustrated by the statement that “Nearly all airport hydrant systems are owned by the federal government.”[2]  This statement represents another contradiction as the aforementioned regulatory analysis documents indicate that roughly 20 percent of all hydrant systems are located at commercial service airports, which are not owned by the federal government.

 

While the EPA’s reliance upon an undocumented critical assumption combined with what appears to be a general lack of understanding of commercial service airport hydrant systems calls into question the decision to include removal of the deferral for AHFDSs in this rulemaking, the decision appears even more ill-considered in the light of industry evaluations that assert many more commercial service airports may be regulated.

 


In its comments to the docket, Airlines for America (A4A) concludes that at least seven other commercial service airport hydrants systems may be regulated once the deferral is removed. The difference between A4A’s assessment and the EPA’s own assessment of the number of commercial service airports affected is directly related to the lack of information and interpretation available in this rulemaking and the associated docket. In addition to the information available in this rulemaking being unhelpful in assessing the scope of applicability, the EPA’s actions have added to the uncertainty.  In February 28, 2012, more than three months after the NPRM’s publication in the Federal Register, the EPA posted a revised schematic to the docket that attempted to address how the layouts of various hydrant systems would be regulated.  In addition to demonstrating the EPA’s lack of forethought regarding airport hydrant systems at commercial service airports, the revised schematic also still leaves uncertain how the EPA would regulate certain other existing hydrant system layouts.

NATA believes that the EPA’s failure to support its assumption that commercial service airports would be largely unaffected by this rulemaking along with the existing ambiguities in how the definition of an AHFDS would be applied to those airports are sufficient to advise against removing the deferral for AHFDS.  Furthermore, when that failure and the existing ambiguities are paired with the vital role that commercial service airports play in our integrated NAS the decision to remove the deferral at this point is unsupportable.

 


Impacts of Removing the Deferral for AHFDS

The EPA has, based upon its unsupported assertion that commercial service airports would be largely unaffected by this rulemaking, provided no analysis of how the removal of the deferral for AHFDS could affect commercial service airport operations.  In light of the issues raised in these and other industry comments NATA believes that the EPA must assess the impact of removing the deferral for AHFDs on commercial service airports.

 


The impact of removing the deferral for AHFDs on commercial service airports, unlike that at other facilities regulated by the EPA underground storage tank (UST) rules, is defined as much by effect on operations as by cost of complying with rule components.  Commercial service operations revolve around the ability to handle traffic flow efficiently, a significant component of which is fuel delivery.  Disruptions to hydrant system operations resulting from compliance with the UST rules would lead to flight delays and possible cancellations.  The integrated nature of our NAS means that disruptions occurring at a single airport can quickly cascade through the entire system.

 


According to the FAA, commercial operations represent more than 5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and 10 million jobs[3].  In 2011, over 700 million individuals utilized air travel from commercial service airports[4].  Basing its rationale upon the undocumented assumption that commercial airports would be largely unaffected by this rulemaking, the EPA has not made any attempt to gain even the most basic understanding of how the proposed rules could affect airport operations and the NAS.

 

 


Recommendation

In this rulemaking, the EPA has relied upon unsupported conclusions contradicted by recent industry analysis that commercial service airports would be largely unaffected by the removal the deferral for AHFDs as reasoning not to investigate fully the feasibility and impact of compliance for these airports.  The ambiguities inherent in this rulemaking combined with lack of in-depth assessment of impact on commercial service airports present significant dangers to these airports.

 


NATA does not believe that the EPA can proceed on sound footing with removing the deferral for AHFDS.  NATA further believes that the investigation and documentation required to determine adequately the scope of commercial service airports affected by the removal of the
deferral along with the impacts (including airport and NAS operations) of complying with the UST rules necessitate a separate rulemaking process.

 

NATA respectfully requests that the EPA withdraw the proposal for removing the deferral for AHFDS from this rulemaking.  NATA would be pleased to work closely with the EPA in a separate rulemaking process that evaluates the effectiveness and need for withdrawing the AHFDS deferral while accounting for the unique and diverse nature of airports and their operations.

 

Sincerely,

 

Michael E. France

Director, Regulatory Affairs

For general press inquiries, contact Shannon Chambers at 703-298-1347 or schambers@nata.aero

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has been the voice of aviation business for over 75 years. Representing nearly 2,300 aviation businesses, NATA’s member companies provide a broad range of services to general aviation, the airlines and the military and NATA serves as the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress and the federal agencies.