In 2009, the California UST Cleanup Fund had run out of money. There was not enough money to reimburse all claims for cleanup costs of properties with leaking underground storage tanks (USTs). A group of people gathered at Cal EPA Headquarters in Sacramento at a general meeting called by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and attended by many stakeholders. The SWRCB set up two task forces. One task force was to look into the workings of the UST Cleanup Fund. The second task force was to examine the UST Cleanup Program. CORE founders and board members served actively on both task forces working with other stakeholders to encourage better practices aimed at efficient land and groundwater cleanups. Realizing the limits of working within the structure of the SWRCB, CORE was founded to enact change at the state legislative level to promote efficient cleanups.
Current CORE Focus…
As 2014 nears an end, we are focused on the impact of two important legislative successes we have achieved with the support of our members. The passage of Senate Bill 445 is a great achievement that keeps the UST Cleanup Fund relevant to our members and other stakeholders. The passage of Proposition 1 by the voters of California has great potential to impact the cleanup of groundwater in our state. Both SB 445 and Prop 1 provide funding for the investigation and cleanup of contaminated groundwater, and CORE was instrumental in shaping both of these initiatives. However, there is still work to do in shaping the mechanisms to channel funding to stakeholders.
If you have an interest in these successes, please read the details below and join us to make your voice heard in the development of programs to administer the use of these funds.
The passing of Proposition 1 (AB 1471/”Water Bond”) has established $900MM in funding for cleanup of contaminated groundwater. The mechanism for the funding of cleanups has yet to be established, and CORE is working with several parties in Sacramento to shape the development of a program to administer the funding of groundwater cleanups under the program.
The recent passing of SB 445 has extended the UST Cleanup Fund for another 10 years, and has brought several important changes. SB 445:
- Creates a Site Cleanup Subaccount, providing grants for cleanup of non-petroleum contaminant (non-UST) sites that affect human health or groundwater — The sub account will be funded by $0.006/gallon from the $0.020/gallon discussed above. The Cleanup Fund estimates an initial funding level for non-UST cleanups at $20MM/year. CORE is working with the Cleanup Fund to develop qualification criteria for claimants and sites to access the funds. This is important as the State Water Board is looking at funding solutions for cleanups of non-UST cases.
- Creates a pilot program for accelerated site cleanups — The current practice of annual budgeting for site investigations and cleanups limits cleanup progress by discouraging claimants and consultants from performing work beyond the annual budget allocations. SB 445 requires the development of a program that involves the claimant, consultant, regulator and the Cleanup Fund in order to continually perform and fund work to drive cases to closure. This was a recommendation by members of our board of directors when they sat on the UST Cleanup Fund Task Force in 2009.
- Increases petroleum fuel storage fees to $0.020/gallon to help keep money in the Fund despite declining gasoline sales — The fund has been operating at $0.016/gallon since the end of 2013. The additional fee will generate an additional $79 MM for the Cleanup Fund. CORE is working to influence the Cleanup Fund to increase the annual budgets allotted to claims based on the increased funding.
- Reduces the funding cap from $1.5MM to $1MM for claim applications submitted after December 31, 2014 — If you are working on an application, you should submit by the deadline in order to secure the current funding cap.
- Calls for a study to reconsider the definition of “small business” to affect the priority classification — The current definition has been in place for some time and does not take into account the true nature of many claimants in the Cleanup Fund, keeping some claimants from Priority B classification. CORE is providing input on the parameters of the definition.
CORE Environmental, with our lobbyist and through the support of our members, worked very hard in 2014 to aide in the passing of SB 445 and establishment of “other contaminant” cleanup language into Proposition 1. CORE has continued to be the legislative and policy advocate for California’s stakeholders and is directly involved in stakeholder meetings in Sacramento that shape the funding programs associated with SB 445 and the Proposition 1 allocations.