Thursday, May 4, 2017

Senate Bill Would Fill Funding Gap In DEP’s Underground Storage Tank Program, Extend Tank Cleanup Efforts

Legislation introduced last week by Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee-- Senate Bill 649-- would fill an urgent funding gap in DEP’s Underground Storage Tank Program by authorizing the transfer of an additional $4 million from the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund to pay for administrative expenses.
The legislation would also extend DEP’s underground storage tank environmental cleanup and pollution prevention programs another five years.  The programs were set to expire June 30, 2017.
DEP regulates the installation and ongoing operations of underground and aboveground storage tanks to prevent leaks, spills and tank failures under the state’s Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act.  Pennsylvania also has primacy to enforce federal underground storage tanks in the state.
DEP regulates over 40,000 aboveground (about 17,400) and underground storage tanks (about 22,500) in Pennsylvania.  DEP did a presentation to the Storage Tank Advisory Committee in December 2016 on the funding gap in the Storage Tank Program.
The Storage Tank Act was passed in 1989 following the January 2, 1988 catastrophic failure of an aboveground storage tank 20 miles upstream of Pittsburgh which caused 1 million gallons of diesel oil to spill into the Monongahela River.  
The spill caused up to $15 million in damage and 23,000 residents of Pittsburgh were without water for a week during a period of extremely cold weather.  The spill also caused water shortages downstream on the Ohio River as the oil moved passed water intakes.  About 1,200 residents of nearby Jefferson Borough were evacuated due to the fear of an explosion in the area from a gasoline leak.
Of the over 22,500 underground storage tanks DEP regulates, there were a reported 192 confirmed spills from those tanks in federal fiscal year 2016, a decrease from 246 that occurred in 2014.
The Trump Administration has proposed eliminating grants to states to administer the federal underground storage tank program in federal FY 2018.
The Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund is an insurance fund administered by the Department of Insurance and a Fund Board which provides cleanup insurance to owners of underground tanks based on a per gallon fee paid by tank owners.
The bill is now in the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  A sponsor summary is available.
To learn more about storage tank regulation, visit DEP’s Storage Tanks webpage.
Related Stories:
Proposed Trump Cuts To State Grants Will Cripple DEP, Cause Drastic Fee Increases

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