BOSTON— Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Representative Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough) advocated to successfully pass legislation in the 2015 Supplemental budget to increase the amount of money available for the cleanup of underground storage tank spills from $1.5 to $2.5 million per incident, setting aside that $1 million increase for property damage to third parties, including abutting homeowners.
This legislation, under the Chapter 21J Underground Storage Tank Fund, ensures that families impacted by the Citgo oil spill in Marlborough have a greater opportunity to be adequately compensated for the damages to their homes. In April of 2012, the underground storage tank at the Bolton Street Citgo gas station leaked thousands of gallons of gasoline. A second spill occurred in February of 2015 and went undetected until April. Currently, the $1.5 million cap has been reached and no money is left to cover additional remediation costs for the families affected.
“The victims of the Citgo oil spill have suffered through no fault of their own, and are currently facing extreme personal and financial hardships,” said Senator Eldridge. “Thanks to the strong grassroots advocacy of the Buckley and Chavez families, and the persistent advocacy of Representative Gregoire, the Legislature and Governor Romney agreed to legislative language in the 2015 Supplemental Budget that marks the first step towards additional state assistance to affected families not only in Marlborough, but across the state. I am grateful to Senate Ways and Means chairwoman Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), for her leadership in updating the 21J fund, and the collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) in order to better serve my constituents.” Senator Eldridge added, “I also recognize this is only the first step in better supporting communities and people across the Massachusetts to be better protected from toxic chemical spills.”
“These families are turning to government to right a wrong that they have suffered. We have been working tirelessly to help through any means possible,” said Representative Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough). “This budget amendment is a step in the right direction that will allow the cleanup of the site to continue. It is my true hope that we will also be successful in passing legislation aimed at giving these families access to some of these newly available funds to reimburse them for out of pocket expenses they have incurred and property damage they have suffered.”
According to the Department of Revenue, under the Governor Baker’s proposed 21J Underground Storage Tank (UST) fund language, the Marlborough families would be eligible to receive up to $1 million for property damage after they have obtained a final court judgment in their favor.
Groups like Toxics Action Center, an organization that works with neighborhoods threatened by environmental pollution, has been instrumental in coaching the families in Marlborough on ways to influence the budget process, sharing lessons learned from communities facing similar threats.
A group of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students are spending a semester researching gasoline spill policy in states across the country. Their research will result in a policy proposal about what Massachusetts can do to strengthen our clean-up laws and provide better protections to victims of properties abutting gas stations in the event of a spill.
Three pieces of legislation have been filed this session to address the oil spill remediation issue by Representative Gregoire H684, An Act regarding liability insurance requirements for owners of underground storage tanks, H685, An Act regarding underground storage tank remediation, and H686, An Act regarding underground storage tanks. The bills are before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and the Joint Committee on Financial Services.