Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/28/1994 01:00 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 513 - GRANTS/LOANS FOR STORAGE TANK OWNERS Number 620 JOHN BARNETT, Executive Director for the Board of Storage Tank Assistance, explained that the Board and the Department of Environmental Conservation both support the CS for HB 513. The Board is primarily an appeal board. The legislation you have in front of you was requested on behalf of the Alaska underground tank owners and operators, which operate underground storage tank facilities throughout the state. These storage facilities are regulated through both the EPA as well as the state of Alaska. At the current time, we have about 142 unfunded applications for assistance, totaling about $42,000,000. Out of those 842, about 151 of them have been determined ineligible for assistance by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Under current law, the only thing that can be appealed to the Board of Storage Tank Assistance is ineligible cost. If a certain cost has been determined to be ineligible, such as the certain cost for the kind of upgrade equipment, or certain kind of remediation equipment, if some cost has been determined ineligible, the owner can come to the board, the board can rule on that dispute, it can mediate the dispute between the Department and the owner. We feel that the legislative intent was to have an appeal board that would hear all manners of appeals related to the storage tank assistance fund. This section 1 within 513 clarifies the authority of the board so that if an owner or operator's cost is determined ineligible, as well as whether or not the owner himself has been determined ineligible, the board can still hear that appeal. The decisions by the board are still subject, of course, to existing statutes regarding the types of tanks involved and the other eligibility requirements. This will only provide a forum for that appeal to be heard. The second section within 513 corrects an oversight in the enabling legislation. The financial assistance program has three basic components to it. It has a testing program, a cleanup program, and a closure and upgrade program. Cleanup is for cleaning up contamination from leaking tanks, the testing program tests whether or not the tank is leaking right now. Closure and upgrade program very simply closes out the old tanks, and upgrades those tanks to new tanks that meet EPA standards and hopefully will not leak and contaminate future drinking water supplies in the state. The testing program has already sunsetted by statute. The cleanup program, the application sunset, is this July 1, 1994. The closure and upgrade program currently has no sunset in statute. The sunset listed here is December 31, 1994, which would correct an oversight in the original legislation, and begin the first step in phasing out the storage tank assistance fund, as far as the application period. Also at this time next year, we will have a complete listing of all the applicants and have a good understanding of the total scope and need of storage tank owners in the state. The third section within HB 513 has been placed in here to assist those upgrade and closure applicants who have yet to be funded. With the cleanup program deadline coming up July 1, 1994, and since most contamination is not discovered until an old tank is taken out of the ground, many of these applicants that have been waiting for closure and upgrade funds will not discover contamination until after the cleanup deadline has passed. What this does, is allows those owners that are already on the list, who have applied by the deadline of December 31, if they have applied for assistance, and if they are using state funds, and if they find contamination, they will still be able to participate in the program. The program has been very successful. To date, we have 34 ongoing cleanup projects. We have 11 projects we have closed out, completely using storage tank assistance funds. We have 246 actual sites that have been cleaned up or a certain amount of corrective action activities actually, that have been undertaken, who are waiting for funds. We also have about 179 sites where closure and upgrade activities have been completed, thanks to the storage tank assistance fund. So it is a fairly good prevention program as well. So we urge the committee to pass out HB 513. Number 705 REP. PHILLIPS inquired on the last paragraph of the position paper regarding HB 513 where it says in part "allowing applicants who have already applied for financial assistance to remain eligible for clean up, will further reduce the demands on the spill response fund." I was wondering how you could make such a comparison? MR. BARNETT responded that what they were concerned with was that if a person could not undertake the activities themselves, right now they have the avenue of the storage tank assistance fund. If the storage tank assistance fund is not available to them, and if they cannot afford to pay, the state steps in with spill response funds of which then cost recovery must take place. The further demands were referring to some facilities that were affected by the spill response fund prior to the enabling legislation that created the storage tank assistance fund. There's certain facilities on the Kenai Peninsula that response funds were used, the cost was probably at least twice as high, to actually undertake the clean up as it cost to it using the storage tank assistance fund, primarily because we avoid litigation, we allow the owners to actually supervise the activities, we use certified workers, private workers within the state, and we do not use the state-lead contractors, to actually do this work. Number 735 CHAIRMAN PORTER inquired as to whether currently, without the ability to appeal to the board on just a denial of services, someone would have to go to court? Number 738 MR. BARNETT responded that the only avenue open to a person who has been determined ineligible at this time would be to go through the court system. Number 745 REP. PHILLIPS moved to pass HB 513 from committee with individual recommendations and a zero fiscal note. Number 747 CHAIRMAN PORTER, hearing no objection, declared HB 513 passed from committee.