Ohio Questions Oil Companies on Storage Tank Clean-Up Payments

September 3, 2010

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board (PUSTRCB) have notified the leaders of five major oil companies that the AG’s office is reviewing whether they should be required to pay back tens of millions of dollars in claims they made to a state fund intended to help gas station owners and operators, individuals, and state and local governments address contamination from underground petroleum storage tank systems.

The letters – sent to BP, Chevron, Sunoco, Marathon and Shell – call into question whether those companies improperly billed PUSTRCB and received compensation from the Ohio Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Fund while also receiving compensation on the same claims from their insurance carriers, which would violate Ohio law.

“After reviewing hundreds of pages of documentation, we have serious concerns about whether these companies collected reimbursement from the state for cleanup costs while making insurance claims for the same expenses,” said Cordray. “Ohio’s Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Fund is intended to be used only for cleanups that cannot be reimbursed through any other source, including private insurance policies. Collecting from both sources would be the kind of double-dipping the law aims to prevent. If we find evidence of double-dipping, we will pursue the repayment of those funds – which could add up to tens of millions of dollars – to the fund. We applaud the board for working with us to pursue aggressive recovery of these monies to fund further cleanup efforts and reduce future costs to Ohio’s tank owners and operators.”

The PUSTRCB in June authorized the Attorney General to undertake an investigation and send demand letters to the oil companies to seek recovery of monies paid out by the fund.

To review the letters sent to the companies by the Attorney General, visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/PUSTRLetters.

Similar demand letters have been sent by Florida, Montana and Oklahoma. South Dakota has filed suit.

The Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Fund was created in 1989 in order to reimburse Ohio’s petroleum underground storage tank owners and operators for the cleanup of leaking tank systems. By statute, all petroleum underground storage tank owners in the state of Ohio are required to pay an annual fee into the fund, which provides compensation for cleanup expenses. The fund is administered by the PUSTRCB.

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