- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
According to a report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), it will cost about $12 billion to remove contamination caused from leaking underground storage tanks or USTs. That number is greater than the $72 million that Congress and the administration have used in their budgets each year.
The GAO estimates that some 117,000 faulty tanks await cleanup. That includes 54,000 leaks from abandoned or unaccountable tanks and 63,000 that would be paid for by known entities. The problem appears to be increasing as 43 states estimate they will find 16,700 new leaking tanks in the next five years.
According to the report, the problem is not a lack of funds. In 1986, Congress created a trust fund that received a tenth of a penny for every gallon of gasoline pumped into consumer’s tanks. The fund currently shows a value of $2.6 billion and is expected to reach $3 billion by the end of 2008. However, most of the money collected has sat in the Treasury to help counter federal budget deficits.
The report also found that some states’ financial assurance funds lack money to pay for UST cleanups. Tank owners covered under the state programs often pay a deductible and the government pays the rest.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires UST storage tanks to be inspected every three years. The EPA is drafting guidelines on how states and the agency should comply with the new requirements.