The cleanup of nearly 200 sites of leaky underground gasoline storage tanks may come to a halt due to federal budget cuts.
In the state of Nevada, around 14,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) are registered with state authorities. More than 4,600 are still in use, and state environmental officials have begun cleanup efforts at nearly 200 sites where leaky tanks are located throughout the state. Just since last May, 6 new cases of leaking gas tanks have been reported, including one in a petroleum park in the rural area of Eureka, and five more in Clark County, The Nevada Independent reports.
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts are responsible for the potential federal funding reduction. The proposed budget cuts would slash about 31 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall budget, which would be about $2 billion. The budget cuts would also significantly reduce environmental research as well as funds used for cleaning up sites of heavy contamination.
Republican Senator Dean Heller plans to oppose the proposed budget, pointing out that the EPA’s budget is already “tightly constrained.”
“You cut EPA’s budget, what you’ve done is cut grant funds, scientific enforcement, legal compliance, assistance from EPA,” Senator Heller said. “What you’ve really done is thrown a monkey wrench into the ability of the business community to comply readily with these natural and environmental laws.”
Under the proposed budget, funding for leak prevention and cleanup would be sliced nearly in half, reduced from $92 million to $47 million per year, despite the the fact that standards for the tanks are raised higher and higher by federal regulations.
In its August report, the Environmental Defense Fund said, “When leaking tanks are at risk of leaking harmful chemicals such as oil, gas, benzene and toluene into soil and groundwater, drinking water and soil are fouled, backyards and businesses become dangerous, community health is jeopardized, and economic development is crippled.”
Benzene is a carcinogen that has been linked to serious illnesses such as leukemia and lymphoma. According to the American Cancer Society, it is a contributor to acute myeloid leukemia (AML).