CORE Environmental Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit corporation and was founded in 2009 to include Consultants, Owners, Regulators and Enviro-vendors in its membership. The founders recognized the funding crisis facing the California Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund as a major problem for property owners, gas station operators, independent environmental consulting companies, regulatory oversight agencies, and environmental vendors who depend on this program of the California Water Resources Control Board to fund the oversight and cleanup of petroleum fuel leaks across the state. The founders formed CORE Environmental Foundation to find ways to streamline the processes involved and solve many of the problems the Fund is facing. Two of CORE's directors participated in the Task Force convened by the State Water Resources Control Board to advise the Fund's management on improving efficiency, communication and program effectiveness. They attended monthly meetings in Sacramento and participated in stakeholder meetings that advised the Fund management on topics such as areas for cost savings, better understanding of the business model for environmental consulting services, subcontractors and suppliers. CORE and the members of the Task Force gained valuable insight into the business model and economics of the Cleanup Fund. During this time, it was widely recognized the Fund could not effectively support the number of active cleanups in the state.
In an effort to bridge the funding gap, AB1188 was introduced by CIOMA. CORE got the word out about the need for the AB1188 legislation. During 2009, it became more and more known that California was in the midst of the biggest Recession since the days of the 1930s. AB1188 was estimated to add to the $250 million the Fund had been collecting, by bringing in $80 to $100 million per year to the Fund. But the gallonage upon which the Fund depended dropped with the Recession. And, even when the Water Board began closing sites -- and encouraging the 98 other oversight agencies to close sites -- it still was not enough. At the same time, the money per site for "putting shovels into the dirt" for actual cleanups was a lot more than had been appreciated. Today, the UST Fund is estimating it can budget for actual cleanups, but at a level significantly below the average cost of about $250,000 to $300,000. This gap cannot be bridged with simply closing more sites "on the books." Thoroughgoing reforms are needed -- and are underway -- with applying "sound science" and engineering to well-drawn plans for investigation and closure. Of course, sites must be reviewed, and those that have been open for decades without remediation work being needed should be evaluated for closure, on the basis of science and engineering data, exposure pathway evaluations, risk analysis, economics and common sense. CORE now supports the efforts to extend AB1188 for two more years, in order to "get the job done" with the reform of the California UST Cleanup Fund -- and the California UST Program. Both programs are the responsibility of the State Water Resources Control Board, which has been working to gather the input of many people and make significant changes.
With the disbanding of the Task Force, CORE's directors recognized that despite the efforts to implement better operating efficiency, the Fund would suffer a dramatic cash shortfall at the end of 2011. Working with Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, chair of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, CORE introduced Assembly Bill 291 to maintain the program's funding level through 2013. With the tremendous support of our members and bipartisan support in the Senate and the Assembly, AB 291 was signed by Governor Brown in October of 2011.
Our current focus is working with Cleanup Fund stakeholders to determine our next legislative efforts. These include addressing the 2016 sunset date of the UST Cleanup Fund, projecting funding levels beyond 2013, establishing a funding source for the cleanup of dry cleaner sites and providing a forum for discussion on the proposed Low-Threat UST Closure Policy.
CORE Environmental Foundation is dedicated to the vision of a thriving community of environmental stakeholders advocating effective, cost-efficient remediation of contaminated land and groundwater.