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News Release

For Immediate Release
June 9, 2011

K. Allen Brooks, Senior Assistant Attorney General
(603) 271-3679

Court Penalizes Tank Owner $75,000 for Failure to Build Oil Spill Prevention Barrier

Attorney General Michael A. Delaney and Commissioner Thomas S. Burack, of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services ("DES"), announce that the Grafton County Superior Court (Vaughan, J.) issued an order against Robert Comeau d/b/a Ryezak Oil Company ("Respondent") for the failure to build required oil spill prevention barriers at his property in Rumney, New Hampshire. The order imposes a $75,000 penalty on the Respondent, but suspends $37,500 of the penalty provided the Respondent complies with the Court's order.

The Respondent is the owner of an above-ground petroleum storage tank facility. On April 6, 2009, DES ordered the company to construct "secondary containment structures," meaning a barrier around oil tanks that can trap leaking oil. Such barriers often consist of concrete berms or other physical structures. DES rules enacted in 2005 had given tank owners until 2008 to comply with new containment requirements which the Respondent failed to do. Facilities that had invested in secondary containment by the 2008 deadlines were at a competitive disadvantage compared to those that had not met the requirements.

The Respondent claimed that he could not afford to follow the DES order on time. He eventually complied by removing all three of his oil tanks rather than constructing the barriers and is no longer storing any petroleum in aboveground storage tanks. The Respondent continues to store petroleum in underground storage tanks on his property.

The Respondent did not dispute that he should be penalized but simply claimed that he could not pay a significant penalty. The Court nevertheless assessed a penalty of $75,000 with $37,500 of that amount suspended. The remaining $37,500 must be paid in accordance with a schedule to be determined by the State and the Respondent.

"We must vigorously enforce our laws regarding environmental compliance to ensure that our natural resources are properly safeguarded from potential oil contamination," said Attorney General Delaney.

"We have had great success bringing facilities into compliance with the secondary containment rules, which are vitally important to public safety and the protection of our state's precious water resources," said Commissioner Burack. "The Department will continue to insist that these requirements are met at all regulated facilities."

For further information, please contact Senior Assistant Attorney General Allen Brooks at (603) 271-3679.

New Hampshire Department of Justice | 33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301
Telephone: 603-271-3658