The current version of the budget bill (H.B. 64) contains language to create a gas station cleanup fund. The funding for this initiative is left over Clean Ohio money. It is estimated that $20 million in Clean Ohio funds were either unused or represent cost savings from completed projects.
Rather than redirect the leftover funds back into the Clean Ohio program, the budget proposal seeks to create a new "Service Station Cleanup Fund" for abandoned gas stations. The program would be run by the Development Services Agency.
The current version of the bill would provide up to $500,000 in assessment grant funding and $2 million in cleanup funding to address these sites. The funding could not be used by property owners that contributed to the contamination at these former service stations.
The advocacy organization, Greater Ohio, testified in support of the proposal. However, they suggested revisions to the available funding for assessment (reduce to $100,000) and for cleanup (reduce to $500,000). They also proposed expanding the costs eligible for reimbursement using grant funding to include acquisition, demolition and infrastructure costs.
One of the issues associated with the proposal is the requirement that the abandoned gas station must be designated by the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulation (BUSTR) as a "Class C" site. To be designated as Class C the service station must meet the following:
- Must be a release of contamination above BUSTR standards, if no information exists to determine if such a release has occurred, a limited Phase II assessment (Phase II sampling) would be necessary to document such a release;
- The party seeking funds must not be responsible for the contamination;
- No ongoing BUSTR enforcement action to cleanup the site may exist; and
- No viable responsible parties may exist;
Currently, there are not a significant number of Class C designated abandoned service stations in Ohio. As the proposal currently stands, this designation will be a prerequisite to eligibility.
If you are interested in the funding, it may be a good idea to investigate the site Class C status quickly and, if the facility is not a Class C site yet, consider seeking such a designation.
This program is temporary due to the limited funding. Once the remaining Clean Ohio funds are used the program will likely cease to exist.
There are a number of abandoned service stations in Ohio. Historically, it has been difficult to attract brownfield grant money to address these sites due to their limited redevelopment potential. This proposal may present a very good, albeit limited, opportunity to address these sites.
I have heard some opposition to the proposal from those in the brownfield community. Some believe the remaining funds should be redirected back in to the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) so that larger brownfield projects can be addressed. However, it seems likely that the proposal will move forward in its current form.