Pence family’s gas stations cost taxpayers millions
Pollution cleanup affects three states
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.