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Connecticut Decides Small Stations, Municipalities Get First Dibs on Fuel Pollution Abatement

The controversial choice comes after the EPA told the state that it had until May to fix the program, which has a huge backlog of UST claims.
June 14, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut gasoline stations might get some money after all as the state modifies its Underground Storage Tank Petroleum Clean-up Fund, the Connecticut Mirror reports.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the state until May 9 to come up with a solution to solve funding problems with its fuel pollution abatement program. Before that deadline, the legislature okayed a $36 million payout over four fiscal years to meet the large backlog of claims. Three months ago, Connecticut proposed shuttering the fund because of its huge deficit.

However, lawmakers approved legislation this week that would give small gasoline stations and municipalities pennies on the dollar for their clean-up costs. "It is difficult to negotiate with people on reimbursement that's anything less than what they expected, but this was not a sustainable program," said state Rep. Patricia Widlitz.

While the state figures out how to disperse those funds, the EPA will not decertify its program. The modification would divide claimants into four groups:

  1. Municipalities
  2. Five or less stations or other polluted properties
  3. Chains with between 6 and 99 locations or other properties
  4. 4.Chains with more than 100 locations or other properties

The $36 million would be divided equally among those four categories. Cities and smaller stations have fewer claims, and the funds will likely cover nearly all existing and valid requests. But midsize and large chains will split the rest of the funds in a "reverse auction." Those that consent to receiving the biggest discount in claims will get funds first. Under this system, midsize chains will get no more than 35 cents on each $1, and large chains will receive no more than 20 cents on each $1, with the scale sliding downward from there, depending on when the chain filed its claim.

"The reform of the Underground Storage Tank program will ensure compliance with federal law, save taxpayers money and prioritize assistance for municipalities, innocent landowners and small station owners," said Gian-Carl Casa, spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management. "The existing program is virtually open-ended and treated big oil companies the same as mom-and-pop shops. That ends with this reform."

The Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association called the modifications "patently unfair. €¦Any citizen in the state of Connecticut who is told they are going to get 35 cents on every dollar they are owed would go ballistic," said the association in a statement. "To most taxpayers this would be unacceptable and it is unacceptable to the businesses" that funded pollution abatement and expected to receive state assistance.