The Environmental Protection Agency announced on April 8 that it would distribute $197 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to assess and clean up leaking underground storage tanks. EPA estimates that these funds will contribute to at least 1,600 cleanups around the country and create or save a significant number of jobs.

“We’re providing immediate growth opportunities for communities across the nation, as well as long-term protection from dangerous pollution in the land and water,” says EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The stimulus funds will inject badly needed dollars into EPA’s program to clean up petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks. A 2007 Government Accountability Office report concluded that the cost to clean up leaking storage tanks could require more than $12 billion in public funds from state and federal sources, as well as additional private funds from tank owners and operators. EPA established a trust fund�financed by a 0.1 cent per gallon gas tax�to help pay for the cleanup and oversight of cleanup of leaking underground storage tanks in 1986.

The funds will go toward either overseeing the assessment and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks or directly paying for assessment and cleanup of leaks from federally regulated tanks where the responsible party is either unknown, unable or unwilling to pay for the cleanup.

States and territories will get $190.7 million for cooperative agreements to address shovel-ready sites within their jurisdictions, and tribal territories will receive $6.3 million. The EPA will retain the remaining $3 million of the total $200 million allocated under the ARRA for management and oversight activities. States and territories will negotiate work plans with EPA regional underground storage tank programs that will designate which sites will be targeted for cleanup.

Funds must be obligated into EPA contracts or state and territorial cooperative agreements by Sept. 30, 2010, says EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway.