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    Chafee Bill Passes Senate

    Initiative seeks major MTBE cleanup, biannual underground tank inspections.

    WASHINGTON -- A bill that would upgrade enforcement of underground storage tanks and finance cleanup of MTBE ground contamination swept through the Senate.

    Lawmakers late last week passed by unanimous consent the Underground Storage Tank Compliance Act, otherwise known as the Chafee bill, named after the measure's author, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.). Still, the bill faces a rough climb to become legislation. A House version is muddled in subcommittee with no hint of imminent action.

    The bill, backed by both the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), would release a one-time $200 million cleanup effort to attack MTBE contamination. It also requires all underground tanks to be inspected every two years.

    In a boost to petroleum retailers, the measure also seeks to allocate at least $100 million a year from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fund, a trust financed by a one-tenth of a penny tax per gallon sold. The fund has ballooned to $2 billion, with only about $70 million set aside to tackle underground fuel-related contamination.

    Advocates fear the Chafee bill could be sabotaged in the House by the energy bill there, which sets aside substantial funding for MTBE remediation.

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