Why is the Regulation being updated?

The proposed Regulation will replace the current Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2014, which commenced on 1 September 2014. Regulations must be updated and remade every five years to ensure they remain relevant and effective. The current Regulation must be remade by 1 September 2019, otherwise it will lapse.

The proposed Regulation is designed to minimise the risk and environmental impacts of fuel leaks from underground petroleum storage systems. Provisions from the current Regulation will be retained by the proposed Regulation, with minor changes to:

  • align regulatory requirements with modern, industry best practice
  • improve the clarity and enforceability of requirements
  • require advance notification to a local council of decommissioning
  • require an annual report on the fuel system to be provided to the appropriate regulatory authority.

Who does the Regulation apply to?

The proposed Regulation applies to anyone who operates an underground petroleum storage system in New South Wales. Underground petroleum storage systems are commonly found in places where fuel is stored or used, such as service stations. They are also found at marinas, work depots, golf courses, airports, car dealerships and some government facilities.

Why are the pollution protection equipment requirements changing?

The current Regulation requires only certain pollution protection equipment to be installed on new or significantly modified underground petroleum storage systems. This includes non-corrodible secondary containment tanks and pipework, as well as overfill protection devices. This is a subset of the pollution protection equipment required by Australian Standard 4897-2008: The design, installation and operation of underground petroleum storage systems (AS 4897-2008).

The proposed Regulation specifies that new underground petroleum storage systems must include all the pollution protection equipment required by AS 4897-2008. This change reflects industry best practice and is consistent with other states and territories.

Why are some definitions in the Regulation being changed?

The proposed Regulation makes minor changes to a number of definitions. 

This includes changes to the definitions of duly qualified person and person responsible to recognise shifts in industry terminology and best practice in these areas.

It simplifies the definitions of petroleum and secondary leak detection system, and applies the Regulation to all EPA licensed sites.

It also changes the name of the Environment Protection Plan, prepared by operators to document their system, to the Fuel System Operation Plan to better describe the contents of the plan and align it with industry terminology.

Why is there a new requirement to submit an annual report?

The proposed Regulation contains a new provision requiring all operators to lodge an annual report to the appropriate regulatory authority.

The new requirement will enable local councils and the EPA to better monitor the performance of underground petroleum storage systems in their area and make informed decisions about compliance priorities. Operators will need to provide:

  • details of any system modification or decommissioning
  • a summary of the results of equipment integrity tests
  • a short description of any leak monitoring and loss monitoring systems installed, and the Fuel System Operation Plan
  • a summary of any leak detection tests or actions taken in response to other loss detection.

It will also provide a quick and simple way for operators to review their compliance with the Regulation and take any necessary actions to meet their environmental obligations and minimise their environmental risk.

The EPA will specify the annual report form and will ensure it is quick and easy to fill out.

Why will an operator need to notify the local council before decommissioning?

The current Regulation requires a report to be provided to the local council 60 days after an underground petroleum storage system is decommissioned. This requirement remains. 

The proposed Regulation will also require an operator to notify the local council of the intention to decommission an underground petroleum storage system no later than 30 days before the system is decommissioned. This change will enable local councils to understand the potential impacts of the proposal and have input into any decommissioning requirements prior to it occurring.

Will operators still be able to apply for an exemption from the requirements of the Regulation?

Under the current Regulation, the EPA has powers to exempt persons responsible for an underground petroleum storage system from complying with certain requirements. The proposed Regulation will retain the EPA’s power to issue exemptions and expand this power to local councils who may also issue exemptions in their local areas.

However, it is now more than ten years since the commencement of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation. Previously exempt sites have had enough time to implement measures to comply with the current Regulation. It is expected many local councils will adopt the EPA exemption policy in their local areas and will only consider an exemption in exceptional circumstances.

A generic exemption remains in place for operators of underground petroleum storage systems providing fuel to stationary devices, such as back-up generators and furnaces used to heat premises, or tanks used to store waste oil (Class 1) until 31 August 2019.

Why is regulatory responsibility for most sites with an underground petroleum storage system transferring back to local councils?

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation commenced in 2008 and was remade in 2014. Prior to the introduction of the Regulation in 2008, local councils were the appropriate regulatory authority under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 for underground petroleum storage systems.

After the introduction of the Regulation in 2008, the EPA temporarily became the appropriate regulatory authority to improve the regulation and management of underground petroleum storage systems. Now the regulatory framework is operating effectively, it is appropriate for local councils to resume as the appropriate regulatory authority for most sites with an underground petroleum storage system.

The transition of regulatory responsibility for many sites back to local councils will occur on 1 September 2019, as set out in the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009. The EPA will continue to provide local councils with guidance, training (face-to-face and online) and technical support.

The EPA will remain the appropriate regulatory authority for underground petroleum storage system sites that hold an environment protection licence. The EPA will continue to regulate underground petroleum storage systems which are operated by a public authority, or are located in the unincorporated areas of NSW, where there are no local councils. In addition, the EPA will be the appropriate regulatory authority for systems subject to a notice, direction or requirement that is in force on 1 September 2019 until compliance with any such notice, direction or requirement has been met.