Underground Petroleum Tank Owners' Ability to Comply With Federal Financial Responsibility Requirements

Gao ID: T-RCED-90-48 March 21, 1990

GAO discussed legislative requirements intended to ensure that underground petroleum tank owners had the resources to clean up tank leaks and compensate anyone harmed by leaks. GAO noted that: (1) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grouped firms owning underground petroleum storage tanks into four categories and phased in its financial responsibility requirements over 2 years; (2) more insurance companies have started offering tank coverage; (3) more states have created funds to pay for tank leak damages and are using those funds to help owners meet EPA financial responsibility regulations; (4) about 15 sources were offering liability insurance for underground petroleum tanks; (5) many small firms are still unlikely to qualify for insurance and will have to rely on state trust funds for financial responsibility; (6) EPA gave final or conditional approval to 23 state trust funds; (7) EPA exercised its discretion not to use its full enforcement authority to discover and penalize violations; (8) EPA was not willing to formally defer enforcement or postpone by regulation the deadline for large- and medium-sized firms; and (9) EPA failed to consider sales contract violations by tank operators when it developed the regulations.

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