Owners of the state’s gas stations and convenience stores are asking Iowa lawmakers to set up a state grant program to replace aging underground storage tanks for gas and diesel. Dawn Carlson is president of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa, representing more than 2000 business locations in the state.
“A majority of these tanks are approaching or exceeding their useful life of 25-30 years and therefore over time they will become suceptible to leaks and other environmental hazards,” Carlson says. “and they are certainly not compatible with ethanol blends higher than 10 percent.”
Since 2006, the state has been offering grants to retailers who promise to offer E85 to customers. The grants of up to $50,000 each are to help retailers pay for new equipment to dispense the higher blend of ethanol. Carlson’s group is asking for an expansion of that program, so tanks that have been in use for more than 25 years can be replaced with a “green” underground storage tank.
“By removing and replacing these tanks we will be protecting the environment and also help ensure that fuel does not leak into Iowa’s groundwater,” Carlson says. “Additionally, underground storage tanks currently in place were not designed for these higher level blends. Installation of new tanks that are compatible with up to E 100 will enable retailers to sell higher blends of renewable fuels in the future.”
Carlson suggests the expense of a new underground tank may be out of reach for many Iowa retailers.
“While many of our members display the logo of a major oil company at their store, they are indeed owned and operated independent of the oil companies,” Carlson says.
In 1989 state officials set up a fund for removal and clean up of underground storage tanks that are already leaking. Over 6000 sites have been evaluated over the past 25 years. According to the Legislative Services Agency the state has spent over a quarter of a billion dollars removing the tanks and cleaning up the underground leaks.