UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANKS (USTs)
Sub-surface petroleum leakage from USTs is a common environmental issue—particularly for retail fuel facilities. Contaminated soils are usually at depths of 10-20 feet and have impacted groundwater with plumes of various product constituents such as MTBE and Benzene. There can also be third-party property damage claims from neighboring businesses and residents. Many facilities are currently owned and operated by small independent businesses who cannot afford the excessive costs. Thus, coverage by the state Underground Storage Tank Indemnity Fund (USTIF) may be crucial to financial survival. In Pennsylvania, the USTIF is known for taking every possible opportunity to deny or reduce coverage, as well as attempting to control the remedial decision making process. Environmental counsel can help navigate the program by assuring appropriate contractual arrangements with remedial contractors, and negotiation with USTIF for pre-approved remedial plans. Counsel can also file appeals of coverage denial well as the frequently encountered short-pays on invoices submitted for reimbursement.
Appeals of USTIF coverage denial based on timeliness of claim notification and proof of occurrence after 1994 jurisdictional date; Appeals of invoice short-pays because of alleged unreasonable costs; Negotiation of settlements allowing substantial payment for remediation;
Representation of retail fuel company regarding release of MTBE to groundwater in residential area; negotiation with PADEP to allow phased investigation of leak source without shutting down the facility; negotiation with PA USTIF for full coverage and defense of homeowner suits.
- Represented owner of restaurant after the basement was inundated by gasoline from a tank leak from the nearby service station. Negotiated safety, remedial, and compensation issues with DEP, insurance carrier, and local emergency responders.