STATEMENT BY SENATOR JIM INHOFE
HEARING ON S. 1850
May 8, 2002
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. I am pleased that the Subcommittee is conducting this hearing today on Senator Chafee's underground storage tank reform legislation -- S. 1850.
I am a co-sponsor of this important legislation and I look forward to the testimony of the witnesses at the hearing today.
To date, the Federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund program has been a success, both in my home State of Oklahoma and across the nation. According to recent EPA estimates, approximately 90 percent of petroleum USTs in the nation have been upgraded to comply with federal standards. This is certainly a success story, particularly when compared to other environmental clean-up programs, but the work is not yet done.
I support S. 1850 because it will allow States to use Federal funds to enforce the federal UST standards. I support this bill because it will require Federal and State agencies to bring their USTs up to federal standards or close them. And I support S. 1850 because it will authorize additional funds to be appropriated from the LUST Trust Fund.
It astounds me that the Federal LUST Trust Fund has a balance of almost $2 billion and yet we are appropriating less than $75 million each year for this important program. I strongly support increased appropriations for this program so that additional funds can be provided to the States for their continued effective and efficiency administration of this important environmental program.
I know a lot of discussion to day will villainize MTBE. I think the elimination of MTBE maybe a case where we better be careful what we ask for, because we might get it. Now, while I tried to make the fuels provision of the Energy bill better, I still have concerns with that package. Among my concerns is the virtual elimination of MTBE. I would observe that S. 1850's provisions are the solution to gasoline contamination that would make an MTBE ban unnecessary -- at least in a world where the facts mattered. Simply stated, if we fix the tanks and thereby improve the handling of gasoline, it makes no sense to then ban a single fuel additive among the many gasoline components that may leak. Indeed, EPA's own Blue Ribbon Panel - the study that arguably launched the interest in this legislation -- bluntly stated, "The major source of groundwater contamination appears to be releases from underground gasoline storage systems." Furthermore, if these tanks are not improved, we could start to find ethanol in our water as a result of the ethanol mandate. Again, banning fuel additives is the not answer to our water contamination problems, but rather it is the leaking tanks that must be addressed.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for calling this hearing. I hope this Committee will act expeditiously on S. 1850 shortly after the conclusion of this hearing.