Ada bill aims to localize fuel tank enforcement

Fuel tank farm (Photo, credit: US Dept. of Labor/OSHA website)

Guam – Empowering inspection and enforcement: that’s what Sen. Tom Ada (D) wants to do when it comes to checking the environmental safety of above-ground fuel tanks.

Ada wants the owners and operators of above-ground fuel storage tanks held more accountable, so his Bill No. 236 (COR) proposes eliminating the hurdles now hampering the regulatory process and letting a few too many petroleum leaks and continence violations to slip through the cracks of enforcement. Local belt tightening’s been done before and it can be done again.

“This legislature had approved the adoption of the rules and regulations for the underground storage tanks, in fact, I think it was the 33rd Legislature,” Ada said during session on the floor of the Guam Congress Building Wednesday morning.

During his renewal hearing earlier this month, veteran Guam EPA Board Member Bob Perron touted the local monitoring of subterranean storage facilities as one of the hallmark achievements of the local environmental watch dog agency.

“Rules and regulations for underground storage tanks have been promulgated, which have allowed our agency to take a bigger role in tracking and inspecting these tanks. Fee schedules have been approved, which allow these departments to generate funds to assist in running these programs,” Perron said.

So Sen. Ada wants to give inspectors the same leeway for the examination of surface tanks. He said that while federal rules and regulations are already in place for outdoor fuel cisterns, enforcement from 9,000 miles away remains a sticking point on island. So his Bill 236 seeks to close the gap by complementing US regulations locally.

“If, in fact, the state adopts the set of rules and regulations, again, as a mirror of federal rules and regulations, then the Guam EPA can act not just as eyes and ears, but also as the enforcer to go out there and issue notices of violation and also accept penalties,” Ada told colleagues.

Ada said, as it stands now, Guam EPA is at the mercy of whatever federal inspection and compliance resources may happen to be available at any given time for a faraway, fuel-hungry island that imports 150 million gallons of fuel annually, while maintaining 500 above-ground storage tanks.

“The Guam EPA, although they go out and they do inspect these tanks, all they can do, really, is become the eyes and the ears of the US EPA,” he said.

“So if a violation occurs out there, then they call the US EPA folks in San Fransico and they try and fit us into the schedule, and they send an inspector out — pending availability that they have the funds and the personnel to be able to send out. By then, you know, by the time they get out here, possibly the cows have already left the corral.”

Sen. Ada said US EPA would absorb most of the cost of localized enforcement, and that permit fees and penalties would suffice for the rest, should his bill become law. Bill 236 moved to the third reading file on Wednesday morning and is likely to come up for voting during this week’s session.