Jerry Kopel

Here is one New year's resolution that some will try to push on state legislators: Just say "no" to continuing LUST.

Is that part of a Pat Robertson sermon? Sorry. This LUST is the acronym for Leaking Underground Storage Tanks and "no" means the end for Colorado's licensing of tank installers.

Most of the tanks are petroleum fuel tanks installed at service stations. Ten to twenty years ago, the country was plagued with leaks from underground storage tanks. In 1984 Congress ordered their replacement or upgrading by 1998, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was ordered to set the standards.

In 1989, the Colorado legislature passed HB 1299 by Rep. Fleming (R) and Sen. Wattenberg (R) which required licensing of LUST installers. Interestingly, neither Congress nor the EPA required such licensing in their statute and regulations, although EPA research at the time claimed forty percent of underground storage tank leaks were caused by improper installation.

LUST came before the Sunrise-Sunset Committee for review this summer and the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) report recommended repeal of installer licensing for several reasons:

.Almost everyone passes the "test"; there are no educational or practical experience requirements; and of the present 602 licensees, not one has ever been the subject of a disciplinary action by the State Inspector of Oils who has jurisdiction under the Colorado Labor Dept.

Only 16 states have some sort of licensing requirement and the DORA researcher reported "there is no evidence of higher incidence of leaks caused by improperly installed tanks in states without licensing programs."

There are currently 13,200 active underground storage tanks in Colorado and the number of active leaks reported has declined from 191 in 1990 to 44 in 1994.

The approval to "Sunset" did not come without a fight. Dick Piper, State Inspector of Oils wanted licensing to continue through 1999 as did Ron Gonzales of Ft. Collins, appearing on behalf of the Fire Marshal's Association of Colorado. Several managers of tank construction firms also testified in support.

The vote to continue the licensing program through 1999 failed on a three to three vote, with Sens. Dennis and Martinez and Rep. Nichol voting "yes".

This means no bill will be introduced through the committee. But the automatic repealer supposed to take effect July l, 1996, actually will not.

CRS 12-34-104 (5) (b) allows for resuscitation of the licensing law. There is a one year wind-down period, during which the program remains in effect. In our example, that means licensing will continue until July l,1997. (If you want to know who thought that one up, it was then-Senate President Fred Anderson in 1976.)

Regardless of what happens to the licensing law, the rest of the original HB 1299 remains in effect with authority of the State Inspector of Oils to oversee new tank installation and old tank repair (if he gets the money to do it).

* * *

Of course, LUST wasn't the only statute scheduled for termination in 1996, but others outside of Sunset review won't enjoy the LUST luxury of a wind-down period.

One such statute is the Colorado Cost Containment and Guaranteed Access Commission. The eighteen-member commission, enacted in 1992 and expiring June 30th, 1996, was to provide recommendations to the legislature on ways to cut public and private health care costs by no later than Dec. 1,1993.

Among its recommendations (some leaked early in July, 1993) were to cut more than 3000 hospital beds, reduce the overall number of specialty physicians by 1370, and increase the number of primary care providers. These items alone, said the commission, would save $440 to $640 million in health care costs annually.

Cutting hospital beds was to be achieved by copying the federal government approach for military base closings. There would be a "State Capacity Commission" which would present a plan to the legislature for an "all-up" or "all-down" vote on hospital closures with no modifications allowed.

Like most commission-type studies requested by the legislature, this one's suggestions, which did NOT include actual bill language, seems to have been placed in the "don't call us, we'll call you" file. Two 1995 examples:

The Rocky Mountain News on Sept.19 points to a half-billion dollars in new hospital construction projects based on competition and aimed towards out-patient care with a recognition that "hospitals may find themselves in the same sort of expansion-contraction quandry created by the oversupply of inpatient capacity."

As for the 1370 excess specialty physicians? In an Associated Press report on Nov.27th, the Colorado Commission on Family Medicine claims Colorado remains SHORT 365 primary-care physicians.

* * *

Another statute scheduled for the trash bin on July l,1996 is the Colorado Joint Review Process (CJRP) under Article 10 of Title 34. It received its final and probably only Sunset review in 1995. The DORA report says CJRP "is a solution in search of a problem."

CJRP is a formalized coordination of existing regulatory programs related to large energy and mining projects. "The CJRP has not been successfully adopted to smaller projects, nor was it utilized for Denver International Airport and the E-470 project."

"The large-scale projects it was developed to facilitate are no longer economically feasible."

There will be a bill in the 1996 legislature on CJRP, dealing only with a cross-reference on "cooperation by the Office of Regulatory Reform with CJRP." The bill is quite unnecessary and a waste of legislative funds. Once CJRP is repealed, the revisor's office will include any cross-references in the annual revisor's bill.


Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

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