Vermont to require inspections of heating oil storage tanks

Written on: June 6, 2017 by ICM

By Mike Polhamus,
Vermont homeowners with above ground heating oil storage tanks must obtain tank inspections before July 1, 2020, according to new rules that officials hope to have in place by the beginning of next month.
Under the rules, all heating oil tanks must be inspected at least once every three years, beginning in July. Tanks will also need to undergo inspection whenever homeowners change fuel distributors, and whenever a new tank is installed.
The tank inspection rules are part of Act 76, adopted by the Vermont Legislature last year.
About 150,000 Vermont residents currently use oil tanks to store home heating fuel, said Matt Cota, executive director at the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.
Tanks don’t need to be in perfect condition to pass an inspection, Cota said, but they must meet several safety standards.
For instance, tanks must sit on a stable foundation, they must have coated or sleeved piping, they must include a vent whistle to signal when they’re full, and they can’t leak, drip or show excessive rust, according to the draft rules.
The rules also say that by 2030, tanks will all need to sit on “solid” foundations, which means they’ll need to rest on a slab of concrete at least four inches thick, said Matt Moran, an environmental program manager with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
It has not been determined who will pay for the inspections, but a number of fuel dealers have indicated that they intend to provide the service as part of their annual maintenance on heating appliances, Moran said.
State funding is available to assist Vermonters who earn less than $75,000 per year and who can’t afford on their own to replace their fuel tanks, Moran said.
The DEC offers up to $3,000 to replace, remove or upgrade an aboveground fuel tank for qualified residents, Moran said, and up to $4,000 for the same purposes for underground, residential heating oil tanks.
Administrators at the Agency of Natural Resources say they hope to send a finished copy of the rules to a legislative review panel this week.
The rules are expected to go into effect July 1, 2017.
The DEC spent about $600,000 in 2016 to clean up spills from aboveground heating-oil storage tanks, Moran said, and about $1 million between cleanup efforts and financial assistance to replace worn-out tanks.
That funding comes from a fee on heating oil that currently costs $.01 per gallon of fuel, but fee revenue has amounted to about $100,000 less per year than needed, Moran said.
Administrators originally considered raising the fee to cover the shortfall, Moran said, but they believed it would not have been “very popular.”
Since most of those spills are preventable, Moran said, DEC officials and legislators believed it would make more sense to require inspections than to increase funding to clean up spills caused by tanks that need to be replaced.
“That’s a big part of what this is about,” Moran said.
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