A Trust Fund For Underground Storage Tanks

A Trust Fund For Underground Storage Tanks

Generally, trust funds are a good idea. They’re a way to provide sustainable benefits for person, group or entity. It’s not uncommon for wealthy parents to set one up for their kids when they reach a certain age (to prevent them from blowing it all in Vegas or on a shiny red Ferrari, I suppose).

More nobly, trust funds are often set up in the wake of emergencies to raise funds that will be eventually distributed by a third party in an appropriate manner.

So, again, generally, trust funds are a good idea but, evidently, not always. In fact, it appears as though they can be downright stupid at times. Take, for example, this gem that I found on North Carolina State’s official website;

  • “The UST funds provide reimbursement for costs incurred during the cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination resulting from a release of petroleum from an underground storage tank. Two funds –the Commercial Trust Fund and the Noncommercial Trust Fund– have been established to reimburse tank owners, operators, and landowners for costs associated with cleanups.”
  • “The Trust Fund Branch administers the NC Leaking Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Funds and EPA grants. To do so, we oversee trust fund eligibility decisions and fund reimbursements. When the state contracts to assess and clean contaminated sites, we oversee activities.We also review technology to assess and clean groundwater and soil contamination and approve innovative technologies for use statewide. We help create, review and explain our statutes, regulations and policies in addition to informing and training the regulated community about trust fund issues.”

OK. Seriously… what is going on here? Is this not why people buy insurance?  Or is this another kind of welfare – except that the recipient isn’t an individual or family who has fallen on hard times, and needs some temporary financial support to get into a better situation. The lucky winners of this publicly funded lottery are “…tank owners, operators and landowners.”

I can see it now – instead of a telethon raising money for people in the aftermath of a hurricane or after a fire, they’ll be one to help the ever-so-needy tank owners, operators and landowners among us.

I’m willing to bet that the program had good intentions when it first started, and aimed to help poor farmers, or designed to clean up abandoned properties.

So much for good intentions.

As we can see, the big oil companies have caught wind of this juicy trust fund and are lining up to munch at the trough (and who can blame them, trillions in profit doesn’t buy as many yachts today as it used to).

Of course, if the oil companies had to (gasp!) pay for getting rid of underground storage tanks, they’d certainly pass the costs down to us anyway. So in a demented and ridiculous way, we’re not getting completely screwed; just partially screwed.

Here’s a helpful newsflash for the ‘well intentioned’ politicians and bureaucrats who are behind this indefensible trust fund; ever hear of insurance? It’s great. It’s easy to get. There’s a talking lizard who sells it on TV (OK, maybe not for this specific purpose, but it’s not like you have to dig in the ground for it or something.)

Regrettably, I know I’m just shaking my fists at windmills here. We all know the trust fund is here to stay. Politicians and lobbyists enjoy doling out free stuff to their contributors, which, if you ask me, is the main reason these funds are still around. That and the fact that some people would prefer to get free money rather than buy insurance premiums.

My bottom line? If businesses can’t afford to pay for removing their underground storage tanks, then they shouldn’t be in business in the first place! It seems we have plenty of public money to stuff into trust funds, but preciously little common sense. Hopefully that will change…but I’m not holding my breath.

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