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Maritime Energy v. Fund Ins. Review Bd.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20500
Nos. No. Wal-00-416, 767 A.2d 812/(Me., 03/05/2001)

The court upholds the decision of the state Fund Insurance Review Board that an underground storage tank (UST) installer is ineligible for reimbursement from the state's Ground Water Oil Clean-Up Fund for its costs of cleaning up gasoline contamination discovered in 1998 from a leaking UST because the contamination was from the same discharge that was discovered in 1987, three years prior to fund coverage eligibility under the Underground Oil Storage Facilities and Ground Water Protection Act. The installer argued that the 1998 discovery was separate and distinct from the 1987 discovery regardless of the fact that they both resulted from the same leak. The court first holds that the board's interpretation of the statute is entitled to deference. The board is charged with administering the statute at issue, the board has expertise in the field of contamination from USTs, and the statute is ambiguous as to whether discovery of additional contamination from a previously discovered gasoline discharge can result in fund coverage under the Act. The court also holds that there is no evidence to suggest that the 1998 discovery was of a discharge from any source other than the cracked tank that was removed in 1987. Thus, the spilling, leaking, or emitting that is the subject of this dispute occurred and was discovered in 1987, three years prior to fund coverage eligibility. Therefore, the board's determination that the installer was ineligible for reimbursement was not clear error.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (6 pp., ELR Order No. L-341).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Ann R. Robinson
Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau, Pachios & Haley
45 Memorial Cir., Augusta ME 04332
(207) 623-1058/5300

Counsel for Defendant
Mary Sauer, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
State House, Station # 6, Augusta ME 04333
(207) 626-8800