In April of 2015, a succession of severe thunderstorms dropped historic amounts of rain on South Texas. Some of that rain made its way into three underground storage tanks holding fuel and diesel under Nasser Farahnakian’s small, independant gas station near Corpus Christi.
Farahnakian called a contractor and had the now unsellable fuel pumped out, an $8,000 loss. When an inspector from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) showed up four months later for a routine inspection and asked why Farahnakian’s records didn’t account for 800 gallons of fuel, Farahnakian told him the story of the flooding and how he’d had to have someone pump out and dispose of the fuel.
It didn’t matter that he’d done everything right, that automatic sensors in the underground storage tanks showed there had been no leaks, or that he showed the TCEQ receipts from the contractor who had removed the contaminated fuel. Farahnakian received a notification in the mail informing him that he owed $59,000 for recordkeeping violations.
Farahnakian wouldn’t accept it; he hired a lawyer and took TCEQ to court. In the end TCEQ agreed to settle for $27,000, but the lawyer’s fees had cost him $15,000 dollars, not to mention a year of his life.
He was perplexed, as may gas station owners are, at how extreme the fines can be even when there is no evidence of a leak. Especially when large gas and fuel companies who demonstrably violate existing environmental laws can escape without paying any fees at all.
A Citgo refinery just a couple miles down the road from Farahnakian’s station had been found to be emitting more hydrogen cyanide than its air permit allowed for four months. After two years, TCEQ was still debating whether or not to punish Citgo or to allow the company to retroactively amend their air permit.
The lesson? Small gas stations are uniquely vulnerable to suffering major fuel leak fines and the lawyer fees associated with fighting them. The best defense against these sometimes arbitrary crackdowns is cost-effective environmental compliance. T-Environmental can help.
Cost-Effective Environmental Compliance for Gas Stations
T-Environmental provides numerous services to help keep gas stations compliant. In addition to providing storage tank cleaning and removal and remediation services, we also offer gas station generator services.
We are proud to have worked on a Permanent Emergency Generator project to bring generators to eligible gas stations in Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Richmond, and New York Counties following Superstorm Sandy.
If you’re interested in cost-effective environmental compliance, contact T-Environmental today!