Kretz bill would increase fuel access in rural areas

Feb 27, 2005, 10:51

Olympia, WA - A measure proposed by Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, which would stimulate rural economic development and increase fuel availability in rural areas, recently received a public hearing in the House Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.

Under House Bill 1823, grants in the amount of $150,000 would be available to owners and operators of idle underground petroleum storage tanks who discontinued use because of economic hardship. In addition to other requirements, the tank must be located in an underserved area and at least 10 miles from the nearest motor vehicle fuel service station.

Funding for these grants would come from the existing pollution liability trust account, which is funded in part by an excise tax on the wholesale value of petroleum.

Federal and state environmental laws requiring underground storage tanks to be upgraded or replaced have caused many rural gas stations to shut down because its just too expensive to make those upgrades, said Kretz.

In turn, the closing of gas stations has affected the economic climate of the areas and brought about safety concerns. Its tough to have any sort of economic development in a rural area when the nearest gas station is 50 miles away. I know of a case where a resort lost significant recreational revenue when snowmobilers were unable to fuel up. The Wauconda Store, located in my district, suffered at least a 30 percent reduction in revenue when they lost their fuel pumps, said Kretz.

He continued, The safety issue also concerns me especially with forest fire season quickly approaching. The Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Service has weighed in on this issue as well, and theyve said it would be a real benefit to have those rural gas stations up and running again during fire season.

It seems like a little thing, but these rural gas stations have a huge impact on the areas they serve. Im hopeful that the committee members see that as well and vote in favor of this bill, said Kretz.

A committee vote on HB 1823 is scheduled for March 1.

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