Regulatory FAQ

One question I commonly get is, “What is the regulatory agency for my property?”.  This relatively simple question has an amazingly complex answer.  The answer is so complex that I will spend the next few blog posts answering it.

Let’s first discuss a relatively common and relatively simple situation, a site with an Underground Storage Tank or UST.  In this scenario lets say you will need to remove the tank as part of your property redevelopment activities.  Maybe the property was an old gas station, maybe it was an old warehouse that had a diesel UST for delivery trucks, or perhaps the UST was used to store waste oil from some sort of operation that was formerly conducted at the property.  In any case, the tank must be removed and you need a permit to do that, but who will be issuing the permit?

Again, this relatively simple question has a quite difficult answer when we go to hunt down the regulatory agency for the property.   In the State of California, issues of this nature are overseen by the local Certified Unified Program Agency or “CUPA ” .   The CUPA was created by SB 1082 in 1994 to consolidate a number of hazardous material programs into one single agency.  In many areas the local CUPA is the local fire department, but based on where your property is located your CUPA may be a city agency, the department of health services, or the local arm of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Other programs overseen by your local CUPA include:

  • Hazardous Materials Business & Emergency Response Plans;
  • Underground Storage Tank Regulations;
  • Hazardous Materials Business Plans;
  • Hazardous Waste Regulations;
  • Hazardous Waste Treatment Regulations; and
  • Risk Management Plans.

For converstaion’s sake, let’s narrow it down a little and say that the property is located in Los Angeles County, specifically the City of Santa Monica and let’s just say the property is a former gas station and the tank formerly held automotive  gasoline.  These assumptions will narrow the CUPA agency down to the City of Santa Monica Environmental Programs Division.   A quick review of the City of Santa Monica website (link) tells us what form has to be filled out and what fees are required to file the application.  There is an extensive packet of CUPA information that (hopefully) was partially filled out when the tank was installed, but you may have to catch up on the filing if it wasn’t done or if it was done incorrectly.  This could also mean paying back-fees.  You will have to file the forms, schedule a contractor to pull the tank, schedule an inspection at the time of the tank pull, collect soil samples, arrange for a laboratory to analyze the soil sample, write a report, submit the report to the CUPA agency (City of Santa Monica in this instance), and backfill the excavation.

Hopefully the tank didn’t leak.  If it did, there is usually an investigation and removal action required that involves more agency interaction and will most likely be more than just the CUPA, but that also depends on the property location and every City/County is different.

There is also always the chance that your property is part of  a larger investigation area or Federal Superfund investigation.  The complexity increases quite a bit at that point, more info in my next post…

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