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Friday, February 5, 2010

Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (USTs): Prevention and Cleanup

Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy

To address a nationwide water pollution problem caused by leaking underground storage tanks (USTs), Congress authorized a leak prevention, detection, and cleanup program in 1984, under Subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act. In 1986, Congress established the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund to provide a source of funds to support the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states in remediating leaks from petroleum USTs. EPA and states primarily use LUST fund appropriations to oversee LUST cleanup activities by responsible parties and to clean up sites where owners fail to do so. The LUST Trust Fund is funded primarily through a 0.1 cent-per-gallon motor fuels tax. 

Despite much progress in the program, challenges have remained. A key issue has been that state resources have not met the demands of administering the UST leak prevention program. States have long sought larger appropriations from the trust fund to support the LUST cleanup program, and some also sought flexibility to use fund resources to administer and enforce the UST leak prevention program. Another issue has concerned the detection of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in groundwater at many LUST sites and in some drinking water supplies. This gas additive was used widely to meet Clean Air Act requirements to reduce auto emissions. However, MTBE is very water-soluble, and, once released, it is more likely to reach water supplies and often is more costly to remediate than conventional gas leaks. 

In the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58), the 109th Congress expanded the leak prevention provisions in the UST program, imposed new program responsibilities on EPA and states, and authorized use of the LUST Trust Fund for prevention as well as cleanup activities. The law also repealed the Clean Air Act oxygenated fuel requirement that had prompted the extensive use of MTBE. 

In the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140), the 110th Congress amended the Clean Air Act to authorize EPA to regulate fuels and fuel additives for the purpose of protecting water quality, as well as air quality. 

In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5), the 111th Congress appropriated from the LUST Trust Fund $200 million for the LUST cleanup program. In the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8), Congress provided another $112.6 million from the fund for cleanup and leak prevention and detection activities. For FY2010, in P.L. 111-88, Congress provided $113.1 million from the fund, including $78.67 million for LUST cleanup activities, and $34.43 million for UST leak prevention, detection, and other program responsibilities added by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This report reviews the UST and LUST programs and related issues and developments. 

Date of Report: January 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RS21201
Price: $29.95

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