Inspection deadline extension no help for homeowners already ‘red tagged’
by Guy Page
October 19, 2020 – Friday’s Vermont Daily report about hundreds of Vermonters forbidden by state law from receiving heating fuel deliveries incited a strong reader response.
Vermonters wondered how and why a Legislature could pass a fuel tank inspection law that would literally leave homeowners in the cold and expose them to the public embarassment of being named on an Agency of Natural Resources online database.
The State of Vermont is showing some flexibility by extending the inspection deadline for some types of fuel tanks. However, the no-delivery rule for inspected-and-failed fuel tanks is still in force. As confirmed in the statement from the Vermont Fuel Dealers printed below, homeowners who haven’t had their heating oil fuel tanks inspected now have until May. An uninspected tank that doesn’t pose a “significant threat” may still be filled.
However, for the hundreds of Vermonters who have already had their inspections and have received “red tags” indicating the need to replace or repair their fuel tanks, the no-fuel prohibition is in effect and will remain in effect until the work is done, per a 2017 law passed by the Vermont Legislature. The Vermont heating fuel industry is working at full speed to repair and replace red-tagged tanks, but appointments are being scheduled into December, with new names being added daily to the state database of faulty fuel oil tank homeowners.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts a cold winter, but with an estimated 10% price reduction for heating oil – provided there’s an approved fuel tank to hold it.
Statement Received Monday, October 19 from the Vermont Fuel Dealers: (VFDA)
Vermont’s AST regulations prevent fuel oil dealers from filling an uninspected tank. After Governor Scott declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, VFDA asked for and received a partial extension of the August 15 tank inspection deadline. That extension will expire on November 1, so VFDA asked for another. In response, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agreed to provide limited relief for oilheat customers that have not yet had a tank inspection.
Under the new Enforcement Discretion Memo, a fuel dealer can fill an uninspected tank of an existing customer until May 1, 2021, as long as filling the tank doesn’t pose a “significant threat to human health or the environment.” This enforcement discretion will end either on May 1, 2021, or when the state of emergency related to the outbreak of COVID-19 is declared over.
- This enforcement discretion DOES NOT apply to outdoor tanks. All outdoor tanks must still be inspected and meet all five minimum safety requirements before they are filled.
- The enforcement discretion ONLY applies to uninspected oilheat tanks in basements IF the customer has been with the same fuel company since 2017. If a customer switches to a different oilheat supplier, the tank MUST be inspected first.
- The prohibition on filling a red tagged tank HAS NOT been lifted. If a tank has been “red tagged” it has already been inspected and failed one or more of the five minimum safety requirements. Red tagged tanks can only be filled by a hand and must be fixed or replaced before the next delivery from a truck.
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