Petrol board director speaks out against changes to tank clean-up oversight

By: - September 27, 2022 6:33 pm

Petroleum tanks. (Photo courtesy of Pixnio)

Terry Wadsworth doesn’t want the legislature to reduce the Petrol Board’s ability to oversee money that goes to petroleum tank cleanup

Director for the Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Board Wadsworth was among those who spoke in opposition to suggested changes to statute. They included limiting the Board’s authority over approving reimbursements for petroleum cleanups, one of its main duties.

“There has been limited to no collaboration between the department (Department of Environmental Quality) and the board or its staff on this proposed legislation,” Wadsworth said. “The department’s proposed language reduces the ability of the board to provide oversight for the proper use of the fund.”

The Department of Environmental Quality hosted a public hearing Tuesday to get feedback on a draft bill based on a performance audit of the PTRCB conducted by the Legislative Audit Division.

Although Wadsworth pushed back against the proposal, others criticized the Board for getting overly involved and agreed with the audit recommendations.

“The board is inappropriately reviewing technical details of corrective action plans,” the audit said in its list of key findings. “The department should have the final say in how cleanups are facilitated. The board should review cleanups for cost and to ensure sites are eligible for reimbursement from the fund.”

The PTRCB is made up of seven governor-appointed members that manage the Petroleum Tank Release Cleanup Fund, which reimburses the costs of environmental damage from leaking tanks. Money for the fund comes from fees, less than a cent per gallon of gasoline and other fuels, according to the audit.

State Executive for the Montana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association Brad Longcake said his organization was looking for more clarity and to understand the objective of the legislation.

“From our perspective, we can’t really see that this would provide any additional benefit at this time,” Longcake said.

Joe Radonich of the Department of Transportation was among supporters and said the Department supports DEQ’s recommendation for the statute change in the proposed legislation.

“It’s been in our experience where board staff has gotten involved, too involved, on technical aspects on work that was being done and caused delays, confusion to the work that we were doing,” Radonich said. “It felt like more that DEQ should take the lead role on technical matters.”

DEQ said that comments received by Sept. 30 will be reviewed, and the department will “discuss the results, determine potential paths forward, and share the results with stakeholders,” as said in the meeting notice.

The department said it would share a summary of the public comments received with the Legislative Audit Committee at their Oct. 4 meeting.

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.