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Commonwealth v. Spangler

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20028
Nos. 1917 C.D. 2013, (Pa. Commw. Ct., 01/23/2015)

A Pennsylvania court affirmed a lower court order granting the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment's (PaDEP's) petition to investigate, remediate, and clean up contamination on private property under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA). The property became contaminated after a cap to a steel 275-gallon home heating-oil tank was mysteriously removed and its contents, approximately 150 gallons of home heating oil, were released into the ground. The property owners claimed that their home heating oil storage tanks meet the exception from the definition of an aboveground storage tank under §103 of the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act (Tank Act) because the containers are used to store heating oil for consumptive use. Consequently, they argued, the HSCA does not apply. But the court found no merit to this argument. Even assuming that the tanks are exempt from the Tank Act, PaDEP nonetheless retains the power to seek and exercise its statutory authority under the HSCA as there is nothing in the Tank Act to suggest a co-dependency between the two statutes. Here, the lower court's findings concerning the potential and imminent release of the contents of the containers are supported by substantial evidence. And although the owners testified that they could clean up the site themselves, the record supports PaDEP's conclusion that the remediation was beyond their abilities.