Lawmakers want to use gasoline spill clean-up funds to improve Indiana’s airports

Aviation Indiana officials say smaller airports, like Monroe County Airport in Bloomington, often don't qualify for much of the state's infrastructure improvement grant.  - Clayton Baumgarth/WTIU

Aviation Indiana officials say smaller airports, like Monroe County Airport in Bloomington, often don’t qualify for much of the state’s infrastructure improvement grant.

Clayton Baumgarth/WTIU

Some Indiana lawmakers want to use part of a fund to fix leaks from underground gas tanks for upgrades at the state’s airports. A bill to do this — HB 1072 — passed the committee Wednesday despite concerns from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Taxpayers, gas station owners and airports all contribute to a fund that helps clean up underground fuel tanks when they leak.

The bill proposed by Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil) would put the amount airports pay into a separate fund that could also be used for above-ground tank cleaning. The remaining money would go toward infrastructure improvements at Indiana’s airports.

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Brain Payne runs Columbus Municipal Airport and is President of Aviation Indiana. He said the bill will allow for upgrades at smaller airports that are not normally eligible for grant funding.

“Not only will it help them grow and thrive, but new revenue-generating developments will result in successful economic drivers for each of our Hoosier communities,” Payne said.

Payne said Michigan City and French Lick airports, for example, don’t have the capabilities that Columbus Airport has.

Drake Abramson is the legislative director of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management — which manages the fund. He said IDEM supports using it to prevent or stop leaks from above-ground tanks, but that bill goes against the fund’s intent — environmental cleanup.

“It would push the ELTF to become a target for other industries who might want to fund projects that aren’t aligned with the agency’s mission — protecting human health and the environment,” Abramson said.

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That could ultimately mean less money for cleanups.

The Indiana Food and Fuel Association — which represents gas station owners — and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce also opposed the bill as drafted.

A similar bill was proposed in the Senate – but that the fund would only be expanded to fund environmental projects on above-ground storage tanks, not airport improvements.



Contact reporter Rebecca Thiele at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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