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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The National Association of Convenience Stores and several other organizations requested a substantial increase in funding for the federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund for 2007 in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The letter, sent on Dec. 9 to EPA Administer Steven Johnson and OMB Director Josh Bolton, stated an increase in funding for the LUST Trust Fund will "provide important assistance to the EPA and the states in preventing petroleum releases from regulated USTs; enable EPA and the states to undertake remediation work at UST sites where a responsible party can not be found; provide federal and state UST officials with adequate resources to enforce federal and state laws; and enhance the protection of human health and the environment."
The LUST Trust Fund provides money to states and EPA to operate their UST programs and to assist states in remediating releases from USTs when a responsible party can not be found. As of Sept. 30, 2005, the LUST Fund has amassed a balance of more than $2.5 billion.
Preliminary analysis by the treasury department shows that in fiscal year 2005 the Fund received an additional $190.8 million from the federal LUST tax and $77.7 million from interest on the balance in the Fund. Meanwhile, administration budget requests and congressional appropriations from the Fund have been less than the interest earned for the last several years -- $69.4 million in fiscal year 2005.
"These minimal annual budget request and appropriations levels have persisted for years, causing the balance in the Fund to rise to a point that it could now fund annual appropriations at current levels for the next 30 years -- without an additional dollar in income," noted the letter. The letter pointed out that the Fund is being used for deficit reduction as opposed to its intended purpose -- protection of the environment.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained several reforms to the federal UST program that expand the permitted uses of federal LUST Trust Fund dollars and place substantial new responsibilities on EPA and state UST agencies. The legislation authorized significant increases in appropriations from the Fund to assure that EPA has the financial resources to implement these resources, assure that the new regulatory provisions do not represent an unreasonable burden on the states and allow EPA and states to expand their response to UST petroleum resources, including those containing MTBE.
"If the Administration and Congress do not break with tradition and appropriate significantly higher amounts from the Fund in the coming years, EPA and the States will be unable to implement these important reforms," the letter stressed.
"The Federal LUST Trust Fund must cease to be used as a deficit reduction tool in the budget process and its massive resources must be employed to fulfill Congress’ intent -- prevention of UST releases, remediation of UST releases and enforcement of Federal and State UST laws. Please use your positions to ensure this important environmental program is adequately funded and that the resources collected to protect the environment, prevent UST releases and enforce Federal and State UST laws are used to do just that," the letter urged.
In addition to NACS, the letter was co-signed by the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, National Association of Truck Stop Operators, National Ground Water Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Petroleum Equipment Institute, Sierra Club and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America.