Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

These are commonly asked questions and answers about the Underground Storage Tank (UST) Cleanup Fund (Fund) eligibility requirements and application process.

How to Search:

  • Click on a question listed below to find the answer; or
  • Search for a particular topic by using the “find” command from the “Edit” menu at the top of your browser window, and typing in a keyword. [shortcut keys: Ctrl+F].

QUESTIONS

APPLICATION PROCESS


APPLICATION FORM INFORMATION AND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION

 

ANSWERS

APPLICATION PROCESS

How do I know if I can apply to the Fund?

To apply, you must meet the following criterion:

  1. Be a current or former owner and/or operator of the UST(s) that caused the unauthorized release that is the subject of this claim.
  2. Have an unauthorized release that has been confirmed by the local regulatory agency.
  3. Be named a responsible party, and directed to clean up the contamination, by the local regulatory agency.
  4. Be the party incurring the costs for cleanup.

If you are not the party incurring the costs for cleanup, please refer to the question below:
      "What if someone else is paying the costs to clean up the site?"


How do I apply for eligibility to the Fund?

Submit a complete Fund Claim Application package including all supporting documentation.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

The Fund Claim Application can be filled out online and saved to your computer, or printed and filled out. The claim application includes instructions that precede each section. Checklists for the required supporting documentation follow.

Review ALL instructions and checklists of the claim application PRIOR to completing the claim application package.

Review additional instructions for organizing, bookmarking, and submitting the claim application package.

You may submit your claim application package electronically as an upload to GeoTracker or in hard copy (e.g., by mail). The instructions are available on the Water Boards' website.

How do I know my claim has been received?

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

If you submit your claim application through GeoTracker and your application is incomplete, you will receive an automatic e-mail message listing deficiencies. If an incomplete hard copy application is received, a letter will be mailed to you.

Upon receipt of a complete Fund application, a claim number will be assigned, and written notification of the receipt date will be sent to you.

Assignment of a claim number does NOT mean a claim has been accepted for review and/or determined eligible for access to the Fund.

Who do I contact if I have a question about my claim?

For claim application packages uploaded to GeoTracker, you will receive automatic emails of certain key actions related to the electronic document submittal:

  • Successful document upload;
  • Document not accepted for eligibility review because the application is not complete; and
  • Document determined to be complete and accepted for eligibility review.

You can also log into GeoTracker to view these key actions.

If you cannot find the answers to your questions on GeoTracker or the Fund website, you may send an e-mail to: ustcleanupfund@waterboards.ca.gov or call the Fund's toll-free telephone number at: 1-800-813-FUND (3863).

If your claim application was accepted for review, refer to the claim number when making inquiries about the status of your claim. Your call or e-mail will be returned within two business days.

How long is the eligibility review process?

IF a complete claim application package is submitted with ALL required supporting documentation, an eligibility determination may be made within 60 days of receipt.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

Can I apply even though I don’t have all of the required documents to submit?

DO NOT submit a claim application package that is not complete.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

Can I list my consultant’s address as the mailing address on the application?

The Fund's responsibility is to the claimant. The claim application must list the claimant's address as the primary mailing address. If the claimant wants the consultant to receive copies on communications regarding the claim, the claimant may also include the consultant’s information and they will be copied.

Can anyone sign forms on behalf of the claimant?

CLAIMANTS MUST SIGN ALL Fund documents unless the claimant provides a person Power of Attorney to sign Fund documents on the claimant's behalf. Claimants are personally responsible and bound by any assertions made to the Fund by person they have provided Power of Attorney.

In order to provide a person with Power of Attorney, claimants must submit a notarized Power of Attorney form designating a specific representative to sign and submit documents to the Fund. Although other Power of Attorney forms may also be acceptable, an appropriate Power of Attorney form can be found at on the Water Board's website.

The person provided with Power of Attorney should NOT be a consultant or contractor performing corrective action work on the site, because it would create a conflict of interest.

If my claim application is accepted, when does my reimbursement begin?

If your claim is determined eligible, it will be placed on the Priority List. The next step is to issue a Letter of Commitment (LOC). Issuance of a LOC is dependent on available funding; the priority classification your claim is assigned; and the rank of your claim on the Priority List. Fund Statutes determine the processing order of the claim. Payment is by priority class; so Priority A claims will be issued LOCs before Priority B, and so on.

There is no way to predict the date you will be issued an LOC, and reimbursement cannot be made without one.

Please see the description of the Priority System.


What if my claim is rejected? Then what?

If your claim is rejected, the reasons for the rejection are included in the rejection letter. There is an appeal process. The first appeal may be made to the Fund Manager. The appeal process is out-lined in the rejection letter.

If you cannot find the answers on the Fund website, you may send an e-mail to: ustcleanupfund@waterboards.ca.gov or call the Fund's toll-free telephone number at: 1-800-813-FUND (3863).

If your claim application was accepted for review, refer to the claim number when making inquiries about the status of your claim. Your call or e-mail will be returned within two business days.

 


APPLICATION FORM INFORMATION AND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION

What permits are required?


If the subject USTs are still on-site:

  • First permit obtained upon acquisition of the USTs, AND
  • Current operating permit

If the subject USTs have been removed:

  • First permit obtained upon acquisition of the USTs, AND
  • Latest operating permit issued before removal, AND
  • Removal permit

If the subject USTs were recently discovered or hidden:

  • First permit obtained after the UST(s) were discovered, AND
  • Removal permit

What happens if I didn’t obtain the required permits?

If you did not obtain a permit to operate or remove the subject USTs within a year of acquisition, you could be eligible for a permit waiver if you meet all of the following requirements:

  1. You were unaware of the permit requirement, and upon becoming aware of the permit requirement, you obtained a permit to operate or remove the USTs within a reasonable period, not to exceed one year; AND
  2. Prior to submittal of the application to the Fund, you were in compliance with Federal Financial Responsibility requirements; AND
  3. Prior to submittal of the application to the Fund, you paid all UST storage fees for the UST that is the subject of the claim.

It is important to note that when the State Water Board grants a waiver of the permit requirements, claimants must pay a higher deductible on their claim, depending upon the date that the claimant complied with the UST permitting or closure requirements. Claimants who comply on or before December 22, 1998, must pay twice the amount of deductible that would otherwise apply to the claim, but in no event less than $10,000. Claimants who comply after December 22, 1998, must pay a deductible that is four times the amount that would otherwise apply to the claim, but in no event less than $20,000.

To request this waiver, complete the Permit Waiver form, including documentation demonstrating that you have satisfied the criteria outlined above.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What should I do if my USTs were permitted but I cannot find copies of the permits?

If you are unable to locate the necessary permits, contact the permitting agency that issued your permits and request copies. If you are unable to provide evidence of permit compliance, your claim may not be eligible.

The Fund recognizes that in some cases a claimant may be able to sufficiently demonstrate compliance with the permit requirement even though they do not have a copy of the permit itself.  Please submit copies of permits that you have or are able to obtain from the permitting agency. For those years for which you do not have copies of your permits, please provide any other documentation that may show permit compliance, such as county billing receipts/logs indicating permits were obtained and paid for, inspection reports showing permit compliance, and tank tightness results and other evidence of compliance with UST statutory and regulatory requirements. The Fund will review all the documentation provided to determine whether you have demonstrated compliance with the permit requirements.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility

If the UST was not being operated, why do I need to submit a permit?

Permits are required for USTs whether they are in operation or not. Permit compliance is required for access to the Fund unless:

  • The UST(s) was decommissioned (no longer usable and still underground). You must provide regulatory evidence that the UST(s)was properly decommissioned; OR
  • The UST(s) is a small home heating oil tank with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less; OR
  • The UST(s) was removed prior to 1984.

A UST(s) that has not been properly decommissioned meets the definition of an existing UST(s) and is subject to permitting requirements.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility

What do I need to submit to prove that an unauthorized release occurred?

A copy of the Unauthorized Release Form (URF) signed and dated by the regulatory agency. If an URF is not available, submit documentation from the local agency that an unauthorized release of petroleum from the UST was discovered on a specified date.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What do I need to submit to satisfy the requirement for a directive?

A copy of the first letter from the local regulatory agency naming you a responsible party and directing you to clean up the contamination at the subject site. The name on the directive letter and on the application must match exactly.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

When is a “No Further Action” Letter necessary?

When the site investigation and corrective action for a site have been completed, the lead regulatory agency will issue a case closure letter. The agency states that no further action related to the subject petroleum release(s) is required.

What should be included in the Site Map?

A map drawn to scale with a north arrow and distances relative to the nearest public road, that includes locations of all current and former USTs, fuel dispensers, product lines, vapor recovery lines, and other potential sources of contamination including, aboveground storage tanks (ASTs), lifts/hoists, sumps, etc.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What is the UST Storage Fee requirement?

Claimants are required to provide documentation that all UST storage fees (for the tanks that are the subject of the claim) due on or after January 1, 1991, have been paid. If any of the USTs stored fuel oil on or after January 1, 1991, you must submit confirmation that all storage fees have been paid to the State Board of Equalization (BOE) for the time period that you owned the tanks. Attach copies of the UST Fee Return forms filed with the BOE with proof of payment (copy of canceled checks) for all the applicable time periods, OR provide a copy of the BOE letter documenting that all fees have been paid for the specific time period at this site. For more information regarding the storage fee, visit the BOE’s website at: http://www.boe.ca.gov/pdf/pub88.pdf or call 1-800-400-7115.

When contacting BOE, please provide name, site address, parcel number (APN), county, tank number, and the dates that you paid storage fees for the subject tanks.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

Why do I need to have Financial Responsibility?

Federal regulations require UST owners and operators to show through an approved method that they can pay for cleanup and third party damages from accidental releases from their UST(s).

All owners or operators of petroleum UST systems, that meet the federal definition of an UST, must show financial responsibility. If the owner and operator are separate parties, only one is required to demonstrate financial responsibility; however, both parties are liable in the event of noncompliance with the financial responsibility requirements.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What is needed to qualify for Priority Class A?

Priority Class A is limited to owners of residential tanks. “Residential tank” means a tank, including pipes connected thereto, that satisfies ALL (1 through 4) of the following conditions:

  1. The tank is used for storage of petroleum; AND
  2. The tank is substantially or totally beneath the surface of the ground; AND
  3. The tank meets either (a) OR (b) below:
    1. The tank is located at the residence of a person or property used exclusively for residential purposes at the time of discovery of the unauthorized release; OR
    2. The tank is located at the residence of a person AND
      the tank is located on property that on and after January 1, 1985, has not been used for agricultural purposes, AND
    3. The tank has a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less, AND
      on and after January 1, 1985, the petroleum in the tank has been used solely as home heating oil for consumptive use on the premises where stored; AND
  4. The tank meets both (a) AND (b) below:
    1. The tank meets one of the following:
      1. The tank has a capacity greater than 1,100 gallons; OR
      2. The tank is not located on a farm; OR
      3. The tank does not store motor vehicle fuel used primarily for agricultural or resale purposes; AND
    2. On or after January 1, 1985, the tank has not been used to store motor vehicle fuel used primarily for agricultural or resale purposes.

If you believe you qualify for Priority Class A, you will need to provide documentation to demonstrate the site is a residential property (e.g., current property tax bill, utility bill) and that the claim qualifies for Priority Class A.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What is needed to qualify for Priority Class B?

Priority Class B is for small businesses that are independently owned and operated AND not dominant in their field of operation AND employ 100 or fewer employees (including all affiliates) AND have average annual gross receipts of $14 million or less (including all affiliates) over the three years prior to the date of the claim application.
IF you believe you qualify for Priority Class B, ALL of the following documents must be submitted for review:

  • Request for Assignment of Claim to Priority Class B   AND
  • Worksheet for Priority Class B Claimants   AND
  • Complete federal tax returns, including all schedules, for the claimant and for each affiliate for three calendar years prior to the date of claim application submittal. As proof of gross revenues for the purposes of assignment to Priority Class B, refer to the chart identifying the federal tax returns, the statement, and schedules that are required to be submitted; Appendix B page 28 AND
  • Documentation supporting the number of employees for the claimant, the claimant's business, and any affiliates [i.e., Employment Development Department (DE-6 or DE-9) payroll reports] for the four quarters prior to the date of claim application submittal; AND
  • Claimants who do not have any employees must submit a letter stating that they and their affiliates do not have any employees. This letter must be signed by the claimant under penalty of perjury and must have the claimant's original ink signature.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What is needed to qualify for Priority Class C?

Claimants requesting Priority Class C must not employ more than 500 full time or part time employees.

IF you believe you qualify for Priority Class C, you must submit documentation supporting the number of people you have employed [i.e., Employment Development Department (DE-6 or DE-9)] for the four quarters prior to the submittal of your claim application.

Only a COMPLETE claim application package will be reviewed to determine eligibility.

What happens to my federal tax returns after the Fund staff review them?

Federal tax returns that are provided with Priority Class B claim applications are stamped and stored as “confidential” and are not available to the public.

When is the Certification of Compliance form necessary?

IF the subject UST was previously owned or operated by another person/entity, you must complete and submit this Certificate of Compliance with Health and Safety Code Section 25299.54(h).

What if I sell the property, can the new property owner take over my claim?

Only under specific circumstances:

A claim may potentially be assigned to a party other than the claimant. A party who is eligible to apply to the Fund, or who is already a claimant to the Fund (Assignor) may assign the claim to another party. The party receiving the assignment (Assignee) must not be eligible to file its own claim to the Fund (Assignee) and must not be ineligible to the Fund because of its own conduct/misconduct at the site.

For more details, the UST Assignment of Claim Information and Guide is available.

What if someone else is paying for costs to clean up the site?

If someone else is paying for costs to clean up a site, you must submit either:

The Agreement MUST BE IN PLACE BEFORE the costs are incurred. Costs incurred PRIOR to Fund approval of an established On-Behalf-Of Agreement or Fund approval of an Assignment Agreement are NOT ELIGIBLE for reimbursement.