Bill on guv’s desk aims to help victims of storage tank leaks

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 19, 2015…..Those living next to leaky underground gas tanks should soon see new opportunities for environmental remediation as lawmakers made a change sought by Gov. Charlie Baker before sending a bill to his desk Thursday.

State government takes in a portion of every gallon of gas sold and uses its financial resources to “expedite environmental cleanup actions” necessitated by underground storage tank leaks.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, of Acton, and Rep. Danielle Gregoire, of Marlborough, have backed increased assistance for homeowners near leaking tanks, citing a 2012 incident in Marlborough where fuel spilled from a Citgo station causing environmental problems for four neighbors.

The $1.5 million cap on state assistance for underground storage tank cleanup means there is sometimes not enough money left over to help neighbors of the gas station deal with cleanups in their backyards.

The bill (H 3835) enacted Thursday increases the cap on reimbursements for cleaning up underground storage tank spills to $2.5 million, up from the current $1.5 million.

Baker sent back the legislation, which had previously been included in a close-out fiscal 2015 budget bill, arguing the $1 million increase should be set aside for third parties.

The Senate had initially set aside that $1 million increase for third parties affected by the gas station leaks, but the final version of the spending bill used the House language.

“Adopting the amendment below will make clear that $1,000,000 of the potential reimbursement amount will be available for third-party claimants, regardless of any claim made by an owner or operator,” Baker wrote in support of a change to the legislation. He said, “For certain high-dollar claims, innocent third parties can be precluded from accessing the program by the passage of time.”

After adopting that language, and another amendment sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, the Legislature enacted the bill Thursday.

Every gallon of gas sold includes a 2.5-cent underground storage tank cleanup fee, which is tied to inflation, in addition to the 24-cent state gas tax.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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