Natural Resources and Environment:

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

T-RCED-90-29: Published: Feb 20, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 20, 1990.

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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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