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March 27. 2013 8:57PM

Heating oil fee increase would replenish cleanup fund for NH under House bill

CONCORD - The House voted Wednesday to add a quarter of a penny per gallon to a heating oil fee used to pay for fuel oil tank cleanups and replacements.

The current charge is 1 cent a gallon and was 1.25 cents until several years ago. The fee was reduced by .25 cent after the fuel oil discharge cleanup fund had surpluses for a number of years.

The Department of Environmental Services and the Oil Fund Disbursement Board recommended the fee increase to replenish the 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.

House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said raising a fee or a tax is wrong especially when it is not needed.

But supporters said the bill is needed because the fund will be nearly out of money by the end of the fiscal year.

The fee also funds the SAFETANK program, which helps low-income homeowners replace or fix tanks in danger of leaking fuel oil into the environment.

State officials predict the fund will only contain $220,000 at the end of this fiscal year, which is not enough to fund the SAFETANK program.

Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, noted the bill has the backing of the Business and Industry Association and the Heating Oil Council.

She said the fund helps to clean brown field sites, serves as insurance for fuel oil dealers and for low-income homeowners.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

grayno@unionleader.com


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