Pence fam­ily’s gas sta­tions cost tax­pay­ers mil­lions

Pol­lu­tion cleanup af­fects three states

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - National -

GAR­DEN CITY, Ind. — Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence turns nos­tal­gic when he talks about grow­ing up in small-town Colum­bus, Ind., where his fa­ther helped build an em­pire of more than 200 gas sta­tions that pro­vided an up­bring­ing on the “front row of the Amer­i­can dream.”

The col­lapse of Kiel Bros. Oil Co. in 2004 was widely pub­li­cized. Less known is that the state of In­di­ana — and, to a lesser ex­tent, Ken­tucky and Illi­nois — are still on the hook for mil­lions of dol­lars to clean up more than 85 con­tam­i­nated sites across the three states, in­clud­ing un­der­ground tanks that leaked toxic chem­i­cals into soil, streams and wells.

In­di­ana has spent at least $21 mil­lion on the cleanup thus far, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of records by The As­so­ci­ated Press. The work is nowhere near com­plete.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment plans to clean up a plume of can­cer-caus­ing sol­vent dis­cov­ered be­neath a for­mer Kiel Bros. sta­tion that threat­ens drink­ing water near the Pence fam­ily’s home­town.

To as­sess the pol­lu­tion costs, the AP re­viewed thou­sands of pages of court doc­u­ments, tax state­ments, busi­ness fil­ings and fed­eral fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures, as well as fed­eral and state en­vi­ron­men­tal records for In­di­ana, Ken­tucky and Illi­nois. The to­tal fi­nan­cial im­pact isn’t clear be­cause In­di­ana of­fi­cials have yet to re­lease cost fig­ures for 12 con­tam­i­nated ar­eas. Other records are in­com­plete, redacted or miss­ing.

The pub­lic cleanup of more than 25 for­mer Kiel Bros. sites in Ken­tucky and Illi­nois — where of­fi­cials have done a bet­ter job of keep­ing costs down — has been much less ex­pen­sive, to­tal­ing about $1.7 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of records ob­tained un­der each state’s pub­lic records law.

Kiel Bros. has paid for a frac­tion of the over­all ef­fort. In court doc­u­ments, the com­pany cited a pay­ment of $8.8 mil­lion in “in­dem­nity and de­fense costs” but noted that $4.5 mil­lion of that came from the state.

A spokesman for In­di­ana’s Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment did not re­spond to ques­tions from the AP.

Pence spokes­woman Alyssa Farah called the find­ings “a years-old is­sue” that the vice pres­i­dent has ad­dressed be­fore.

Af­ter Kiel Bros. went bank­rupt, the state sought about $8.4 mil­lion from the com­pany for cleanup and fines.

When a new Repub­li­can gover­nor, Mitch Daniels, as­sumed of­fice in 2005, the state dropped that claim, which had been filed un­der Mr. Daniels’ Demo­cratic pre­de­ces­sor, Gov. Joe Ker­nan.

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