Underground Storage Tanks Cleanup under RCRA: LUST Trust Fund and Cost Recovery
Following a release from an Underground Storage Tank (UST), an owner and/or operator must notify the appropriate regulatory agency(ies) of the release and clean up any contamination.
If there is no viable owner and/or operator to clean up the release, EPA or the state may use the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund. In the event that the LUST Trust Fund money is used to clean up a release and it is determined that there is a viable party responsible for the release, EPA may take a cost recovery action.
LUST Trust Fund
The federal LUST Trust Fund was created by Congress to finance UST cleanups for which no viable owner or operator can be found.
The LUST Trust Fund may also be used for certain administrative expenses associated with enforcement against owners and/or operators not in compliance with the UST program. The LUST Trust Fund is funded by a congressional appropriation from a tax on fuel.
EPA or states may use the LUST Trust Fund to pay for cleanup when:
- no owner or operator capable of carrying out the cleanup can be found within 90 days;
- cleanup requires prompt action to protect human health and the environment;
- cleanup costs exceed financial assurance coverage requirements; or
- the owner or operator refuses to comply with a cleanup order.
If EPA or states spend LUST Trust Fund money to clean up a site and later learn that a viable party owner or operator exists, EPA or the state may seek to recover money spent under section 9003(h) of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Recoverable costs include the following:
- temporary or permanent relocation of residents;
- alternative household water supplies; and
- any exposure assessment.
EPA takes ability to pay into consideration when recovering costs. Inability to pay must be demonstrated by the owner or operator. Misrepresentation of one’s financial situation enables EPA to recover all costs of cleanup.
EPA may use financial models to make the ability to pay determination which are available on the Agency's penalty and financial models website. More information on ability to pay is available from the Agency's "Overview of Ability to Pay Guidance and Models" (PDF) (5 pp, 466K, About PDF) factsheet.The statute of limitations for recovering cleanup costs is the standard five years for a federal civil action.