Wisconsin’s 2015-2017 budget will not include any funding for the state’s tank clean-up fund, Governor Scott Walker surprisingly announced on Sunday. The budget sent to him by the Wisconsin Senate included a planned sunset of the Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award (PECFA) reimbursement program to releases reported prior to July 1, 2017 and claims received prior to July 1, 2020.
Gov. Walker’s line-item veto, however, abruptly sped up the end of the cleanup program. Any tank owner with a current PECFA project must submit their reimbursement claim for their clean-up expenses by July 20, 2015 – a mere 8 days after the budget was signed into law. “The program has existed for a sufficient time that its primary purpose has been completed,” stated Gov. Walker.
PECFA was created in the late 1980s to help pay for the clean-up of contamination caused by leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) and aboveground storage tanks (ASTs). It is funded by a tax added to all petroleum products sold. It is unclear at this time what will happen to the remaining money in the PECFA fund once the final reimbursement claims are paid.
Any Wisconsin tank owner who has a release in the future will no longer be able to seek assistance from the State to handle the contamination. The environmental clean up requirements remain in place. This sudden end of the PECFA fund will hurt individuals and small business owners who lack the resources to respond adequately on their own to a leaking tank.
Over its 25+ year history, PECFA provided more than $1.5 billion in funding to help clean up more than 16,000 sites. As of September 2014, there were still more than 1,000 clean-ups in process throughout Wisconsin according to U.S. EPA data. Additionally, there are nearly 73,000 known tanks in use or temporarily out of service in the state – and possibly as many as 200,000 additional unregistered tanks.clean-up, PECFA