$3.16 Million Penalty Upheld for Underground Fuel Storage Tank Violations

EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) has upheld the agency's enforcement action against the owner of Lowest Price gas stations in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In cooperation with state and D.C. officials, EPA filed a complaint in September 2002 against gas station owner Euclid of Virginia Inc. for violating regulations designed to detect and prevent fuel leaks from underground storage tanks (USTs).

Euclid had appealed an administrative law judge's November 2006 assessment of a $3.08 million penalty for these violations--the largest penalty ever assessed by an EPA administrative law judge for violations of any federal environmental law. In a March 11, 2007 decision, the EAB ruled against every issue raised in an appeal filed by Euclid and ruled in favor of EPA's cross-appeal against Euclid, increasing this precedent-setting penalty to $3,164,555 for violations involving 72 underground storage tanks at 23 gas stations. The EAB overturned the administrative law judge's rulings against EPA on three counts involving inventory control violations, and imposed the proposed $79,262 penalty for these counts.

"With millions of gallons of gasoline, oil, and other petroleum products stored in underground tanks, leaving them unchecked can cause major soil and groundwater contamination," said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator of EPA's mid-Atlantic region. "This decision should send a strong message to owners of underground storage tanks that it is not only in the public's best interest but in their own, too, to comply with leak detection and prevention requirements."

The violations involved 14 gas stations in Maryland (in Baltimore, Brentwood, Camp Spring, District Heights, Frederick, Hyattsville, two facilities in Landover Hills, Langley Park, Mitchellville, Palmer Park, Pasadena, Silver Spring, Trappe), two in Virginia (located in Chantilly and Ruckersville), and seven in the District of Columbia.

EAB ruled that EPA had proven that Euclid failed to maintain required leak detection and control equipment, to perform required leak detection activities, to comply with corrosion-prevention standards and conduct cathodic protection testing, to properly install or maintain equipment to prevent releases of gasoline due to the overfilling of tanks or other spills when tanks are being filled, and to maintain required financial assurances.

The size of the penalty was due not only to the large number of facilities and underground storage tanks involved, but also to Euclid's repeated non-compliance with the same regulations over periods that often lasted for several years.

A PDF of the board's decision is available Here.

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