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Bill advances to increase fee for fuel tank cleanup fund with heating oil tax

CONCORD - The House voted 186-165 Wednesday to give preliminary approval to a bill that adds a quarter of a penny per gallon of heating oil to a fee used to fund fuel oil tank cleanups and replacements.

The current charge is 1 cent a gallon and was 1.25 cents until several years ago after years of surpluses in the fuel oil discharge cleanup fund.

Supporters of the bill said the increase is needed because fewer and fewer people are using heating oil, instead switching to less costly fuels such as wood, propane and natural gas.

But opponents said the fund continues to run a surplus so there is no need to increase the fee.

Rep. Keith Murphy, R-Bedford, said the fuel oil discharge cleanup fund ended the last two years with surpluses over $1 million and surpluses over the last four years.

He said the fee was reduced because the fund continually ran a surplus.

Murphy said residents heating with fuel oil would pay an additional $500,000 a year at a time when the cost is already prohibitive.

The bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Leigh Web, D-Franklin, said while revenues from the fee have been decreasing, the need to clean up spills and to replace old tanks has not.

"The needs persist," Webb said. "If we don't address it now, it will be more expensive to address in the future."

House Bill 185 now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee for further review before another vote in the House.

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