Failed gas station cleanups costly

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - As­so­ci­ated Press

The col­lapse of the gas sta­tions owned by the fam­ily of Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence has forced states to pay tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to fix up more than 85 con­tam­i­nated sites.

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 smaller 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 alone has spent at least $21 mil­lion on the cleanup thus far, or an av­er­age of about $500,000 per site, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of records by the As­so­ci­ated Press. And the work is nowhere near com­plete.

The fed­eral govern­ment, mean­while, 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 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 only a frac­tion of the over­all ef­fort. In court doc­u­ments , the com­pany cited a pay­ment of $8.8 mil­lion in “in­dem­nity and de­fense costs,” but also noted that $4.5 mil­lion of that amount came from the state.

A spokesman for In­di­ana’s Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment, which reg­u­lates gas sta­tions, did not re­spond to a list of ques­tions from the AP.

Pence spokes­woman Alyssa Farah called the find­ings “a years old is­sue” that the vice pres­i­dent has ad­dressed be­fore. She did not elab­o­rate.

In a state­ment, Pence’s older brother Greg Pence — who was pres­i­dent of Kiel Bros. when it went bank­rupt and is now run­ning for Congress as a Re­pub­li­can — dis­tanced him­self from the cleanup costs.

“Greg Pence has had noth­ing to do with Kiel Bros since 2004,” cam­paign spokes­woman Molly Gil­laspie said.

The fact that the com­pany stuck tax­pay­ers with the lion’s share of the cleanup bill ran­kles some ob­servers, es­pe­cially in light of the fam­ily’s rep­u­ta­tion as bud­get hawks crit­i­cal of govern­ment spend­ing.

The Pence fam­ily, es­pe­cially Greg Pence, has “some an­swer­ing in public” to do, said A. James Barnes, an en­vi­ron­men­tal law pro­fes­sor who served in high­rank­ing posts at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency un­der Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan.

As­so­ci­ated Press (2017)

The col­lapse of the Pence fam­ily’s gas sta­tions in 2004 have cost tax­pay­ers in three states mil­lions of dol­lars to clean up 85 con­tam­i­nated sites.

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