Enforcement

UST Cleanup Enforcement Authorities

Following a release from an Underground Storage Tank (UST), EPA's primary goal is for the owner and/or operator of the UST to clean up contamination as soon as possible.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) provides EPA with several enforcement authorities to ensure that releases from USTs are cleaned up and owners/operators comply with other RCRA requirements. EPA's enforcement response is determined by the circumstances surrounding the release.

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Enforcement Authorities

Enforcement Authority

Summary

RCRA Section
Information gathering and inspections

EPA may request information from any owner and/or operator of an UST.

EPA may conduct inspections of the UST and associated equipment, sample contaminated media, and access and/or copy all records relating to the UST.

EPA may seek penalties of up to $11,000* per tank for each day of noncompliance with a request.

Section 9005
(42 U.S.C. § 6991d)

Corrective action order

EPA may order, or ask a federal court to order, cleanup of UST releases to a level protective of human health and the environment.

EPA can spend money to clean up a release in certain situations.

EPA may seek to recover its cleanup costs if a liable, solvent party is found.

Section 9003(h)
(42 U.S.C. § 6991b)

Compliance orders

When an owner and/or operator fails to comply with a cleanup order, a request for information, or an inspection, EPA may take formal action seeking compliance and a penalty of up to $37,500* for each day of noncompliance.

Section 9006
(42 U.S.C. § 6991e)

Imminent & substantial endangerment (ISE)

When the past or present handling, storage, treatment, or transportation of any solid or hazardous waste may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment, EPA take formal action to stop the endangerment. If a person does not comply with an order, EPA may seek penalties of up to $7500* for each day of noncompliance.

Section 7003
(42 U.S.C. § 6973)

Monitoring, testing, and analysis

Where hazardous waste (which may include petroleum) is or was stored, treated, or disposed of, or where its release may present a substantial hazard to human health or the environment, EPA may order an owner and/or operator to monitor, test and analyze. If an owner and/or operator does not comply with an order, EPA may: (1) take administrative action seeking compliance with the order and penalties of up to $37,500* for each day of noncompliance; (2) file a civil lawsuit seeking compliance with the order and penalties of up to $7500* for each day of non-compliance; or (3) do the monitoring, testing, or analysis and seek reimbursement for costs incurred.

Section 3013
(42 U.S.C. § 6934)

*Penalties are current for violations after January 12, 2009, the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 requires EPA to review the civil monetary penalties under the statutes it administers at least once every four years and to adjust such penalties as necessary for inflation.

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Enforcement in States and Territories

EPA may approve a state or territory UST program to operate in lieu of EPA's UST program. This process is known as state program approval. EPA approves a state-administered UST program if:

  • the state requirements are no less stringent than the federal requirements; and
  • the state has the ability to take adequate enforcement actions.

An approved state program operates in lieu of EPA's UST program. The majority of enforcement actions with regard to UST requirements in an approved state are initiated by the state.

Owners and operators of USTs located in approved states should consult with the state agency that regulates USTs since state UST programs may have different or more stringent requirements than the federal UST program. For more information on state UST programs, laws and regulations, visit your state's UST Web page.

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Enforcement in Indian Country

EPA is responsible for bringing enforcement actions under RCRA Subtitle I to address leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) in Indian country.

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

For tribal LUST owners and operators in Indian country that are not in compliance with the federal UST requirements, EPA works cooperatively with tribal leadership to develop means to achieve compliance, and provides technical support and consultation as necessary to enable compliance.

EPA's 1984 Indian Policy (PDF) (4 pp, 212 K) (11/8/84) requires EPA to consult with tribes on a government-to-government level. EPA's Enforcement Principles Outlined in the 1984 Indian Policy (PDF) (15 pp, 1 MB) (1/17/01) and Questions and Answers on the Tribal Enforcement Process (PDF) (17 pp, 2.9 MB) (4/17/07) provide further guidance on EPA's enforcement policies in Indian country.

Learn More: Types of Leaking UST enforcement actions and tools.