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Recycling Americas Gas Stations: The Value and Promise of Revitalizing Petroleum Contaminated Properties

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Across America, local communites grapple with the challenges of polluted, abandoned gas stations and other petroleum contaminated sites known as USTfields. As many as 200,000 sites are impacted by petroleum leaking from underground storage tanks or "USTs, and these properties are a threat to public health and a blight on neighborhoods. 

Much like brownfields, petroleum contaminated "USTfields" are a barrier to community revitalization. Fear of clean-up liability, lengthy regulatory procedures, and up-front expenses are among the significant obstacles to the reuse of these sites. Many of these sites are gas stations that shut down because they could not comply with 1998 federal requirements to clean and upgrade gas tanks, often because their owners could not afford to investigate and clean up the contamination present. However, the problem is not limited to abandoned gas stations. Nearly 30 percent of the nation's operating gas tanks are not being maintained properly and therefore pose the risk of petroleum contamination. 

Until recently, the federal laws and resources available to assist state and local governments in cleaning up polluted sites were not available to sites contaminated with petroleum, because of restrictions in the federal Superfund law. Now, however, the new Brownfields Revitalization Act signed by President Bush on January 11 provides new law and new resources for cleaning abandoned gas stations. 

Our study, Recycling America's Gas Stations; The Value and Promise of Revitalizing Petroleum Contaminated Properties, identifies 20 examples of states and communities that are at the forefront of cleaning up petroleum contaminated sites and turning them into community parks, businesses, affordable housing units, mixed used developments, new service stations, and other beneficial uses.