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September 12, 2017 12:30 AM, EDT
EPA Helps Wyoming Clean Up Underground Storage Tanks
Wyoming pipeline Shutterstock

Officials in Wyoming are receiving a boost in their ongoing efforts to clean petroleum seeping from their underground storage tanks.

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality was awarded a $1.6 million grant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the agency announced last month.

The grant is meant to aid staff at the state agency with addressing petroleum-related leaks, of which there are 707 cases under investigation or being remediated statewide. Wyoming recently announced six cases of confirmed petroleum releases from underground storage tanks and that 96 cases had been completed.

The state noted its objective is to complete any cleanups and reduce the rate of confirmed releases to ensure residents and the environment are protected from exposure to the leaks.

The grant was facilitated through the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) trust fund, an account established by Congress to support states with managing such contamination. The trust fund addresses leaks from federally regulated underground tanks, and it is financed by a 1-cent federal tax on each gallon of motor fuel.

“Grants made under the LUST trust fund give states the flexibility to clean up petroleum contamination from leaking underground storage tanks,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Aug. 22. “EPA is providing funds directly to Wyoming so that the state may determine how best to address its unique and critical environmental challenges.”

About 558,000 tanks store petroleum or other hazardous materials underground, according to the agency. Besides addressing cleanup projects, the fund finances emergency cleanups.

To help cover the cost of transportation programs in the 2015 FAST Act highway law, Congress transferred $300 million over three years to the Highway Trust Fund from the storage tank fund. To avoid a debate on the merits of raising taxes on fuel, transportation policymakers on Capitol Hill opted to tap into the trust fund and other nontransportation accounts in 2015 to ensure the Highway Trust Fund’s solvency for several years.