Petroleum industry stakeholder briefing and discussion forum

The proper management of Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) is a significant legal obligation for all service station operators under State and Territory Environmental Laws

The simple act of storing fuel underground means that there is a risk of contamination of soil, groundwater and natural waterways (via transport of pollutants through soil or via groundwater.

Every service station operator around the country therefore has an absolute obligation to monitor the operation of their UPSS on a continual basis to allow the early detection of any system leads, as a means of managing their environmental obligations.

In 2008, the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) introduced the Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation. This regulation outlines the minimum requirements for the design and operation (including monitoring) of UPSS.

“It would be fair to say that the operation and enforcement of this Regulation created considerable angst for the fuel retail industry during the early years and led to significant confusion amongst fuel retailers and EPA enforcement officers alike”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“Thankfully, much of this confusion has diminished as enforcement officers gained an understanding of fuel industry operation – and fuel retailers learned how to accommodate these minimum requirements”, said Mark

But in a move that is likely to be challenging, the NSW Government is now preparing to transfer the responsibility for enforcement of the UPSS Regulation to Local Councils on 1 September 2019.

Given the early problems with the operation and enforcement of these laws, it is vital that Council enforcement officers are skilled in the proportionate enforcement of the UPSS Regulations

“Our principal concern is to ensure that Local Council Officers are properly trained and knowledgeable with respect to future enforcement of the UPSS Regulation”, said Mark

Thankfully, the NSW EPA has commenced a consultative process with industry to discuss issues associated with the proposed transfer of regulatory responsibility.

A key aspect of this consultation will be the conduct of a Stakeholder Briefing in Sydney on 27 March 2019, where the EPA will provide information in respect of:

  • Updated EPA guidance material on UPSS management
  • Steps being taken in respect of training and capacity building for council officers
  • The future approach for evaluating UPSS operator performance and compliance
  • Process to be used for following up previously exempt or non-compliant sites.

The Forum is being held at the EPA’s Sydney Office (59 Goulburn Street, Sydney) between 2pm and 4pm on Wednesday the 27th of March 2019.

Further information about the forum can be found HERE).

Registrations for this Forum can be made by emailing your contact details to UPSSREG@epa.nsw.gov.au

“This is a significant change in the enforcement of an important Regulation for our industry and I urge both fuel retailer and industry contractors involved in UPSS Management to attend this Forum”, said Mark.

For its part, ACAPMA will be attending the Forum and will continue to work co-operatively with the NSW EPA to ensure that the future enforcement of the UPSS Regulation is carried out efficiently and effectively by qualified personnel, with minimum inconvenience caused to fuel retail businesses.