Tuesday 16 November 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council
UNDERGROUND FUEL TANKS - REGULATIONS
Mr FINCH (Question) - My question is to the honourable Leader.
Is the Government aware of the concern in the Tasmanian community
about the effect of new regulations for underground fuel tanks?
Does the Government realise that the regulations about underground
fuel tanks potentially affect the viability of a number of
important regional businesses such as stores and post offices
which rely on fuel sales? Is he aware that some landowners
are facing huge costs for removing disused tanks? In my electorate
of Rosevears itself it would cost in excess of $50 000 to
remediate one property. Will the Government consider ways
to spread the burden of remedial action and what assurances
can the Government offer affected landowners who cannot afford
Mr PARKINSON - I thank the honourable member for his petrol-sniffing
question. The two most common concerns regarding the new underground
petroleum storage systems regulations which have been brought
to the attention of the Government relate to the decommissioning
of abandoned storage systems and the cost of monitoring the
storage systems for leaks. Regulations aim to prevent or limit
to the greatest extent practicable the release of petroleum
product into the environment from the underground petroleum
storage systems. This will reduce harm to the environment
and also reduce clean-up costs for storage system owners.
The development of the regulations included several stages
of public consultation and included the release of draft regulations
and the cost-benefit analysis in the form of a regulatory
impact statement. The balance between protecting the environment
and the cost of implementing the regulations was considered
in detail while drafting the regulations. In order to minimise
the financial impact of the regulations the commencement of
some requirements was delayed so that site operators and infrastructure
owners could budget for the costs.
The regulations require storage systems to be monitored for
leaks. This is estimated to cost $25 per tank per month. While
this is an added cost burden, it will result in leaks being
detected earlier which should limit the extent of contamination
and therefore reduce the cost of remediation. Other costs
that the regulations impose are the installation and monitoring
of groundwater wells and the upgrading of infrastructure.
If the storage systems are in an area where the groundwater
has a sensitive use, for example drinking water source, groundwater
monitoring wells will need to be installed to ensure the groundwater
is protected. Two years' notice will be given prior to the
requirement for the installation of the wells.
Equipment upgrades are only required where a decision is made
to replace the infrastructure or where repair is necessary.
The removal of disused storage systems was included in the
regulations in an effort to gradually address the potential
risk they posed to human health and the environment due to
issues such as collapse and explosion risk and leaks impacting
The regulations do not set a time frame within which disused
tanks must be decommissioned and therefore the owners are
able to plan ahead for this cost. In most cases those storage
systems will be decommissioned when the site is redeveloped
or sold. The cost of decommissioning is likely to be around
$10 000, although costs will be higher if contamination that
poses a risk to the environment or human health is detected.
The key principle on which our environmental legislation is
based is that of polluter pays. This means that if contamination
is detected, it needs further assessment and/or remediation.
The person who is responsible for the operation of the site
when the pollution occurred will be liable in the first instance.
However, if the polluter cannot be found or determined and
the property was purchased after 2007, and the purchaser was
aware that petroleum had been stored on the site, then the
landowner may be liable for remediation costs. There could
be a few operators who would be unaware of the potential for
underground fuel tanks to leak and potentially cause contamination.
It is up to the operators whose business it is to sell fuel
to make provision for dealing with the consequences of these
leaks should they occur.
A feature of the new regulations is the requirement for storage
systems to be monitored for leaks which should limit the extent
of contamination and therefore reduce the cost of remediation.