As winter approaches, heating fuel denied hundreds of ‘red tagged’ homeowners

By Guy Page

As late-October cold weather moves in, hundreds of Vermont home and property owners are forbidden to fill up their heating fuel tanks.

These property owners have been “red-tagged,” or found by a mandatory heating fuel tank inspection to have inadequate above-ground fuel storage.

A Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) rule (enabled by a 2017 law) for above ground storage tanks requires inspectors to affix red tags on heating oil tanks that are at imminent risk of a fuel spill, the ANR website says.  Fuel distributors are not allowed to deliver fuel to a red-tagged tank until the tank has been repaired or replaced.  Homeowners had until July 31, 2020 to schedule their first inspection. After the first inspection they must have their tanks inspected once every three years.

The red-tag rule helps prevent costly spills of heating oil from aboveground storage tanks, ANR said. Last year, Vermont’s Petroleum Cleanup Fund spent over $1 million providing assistance to tank owners for tank upgrades and repairs and paying for cleanups associated with roughly 80 aboveground storage tank releases.  The Petroleum Cleanup Fund’s heating oil account is financed through a one-cent fee on each gallon of heating oil fuel.

The list of ‘red tagged’ property owners is published on the ANR website. It appears to grow every day. Twenty-eight properties have  been added this week alone. Meanwhile, according to a story in yesterday’s VT Digger, fuel tank installers are scrambling to keep up with demand – with some scheduling into December. 

For homeowners with yet-to-be inspected tanks, the State inspection deadline of August, 2020 has been extended until May 2021, due in part to the demands of the pandemic. 

Most of the property owners are unknown to most Vermonters, but a home belonging to Franklin Billings Jr. of Woodstock did make the list. A Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court and Woodstock resident named Franklin Billings Jr. died in 2014. Several “red-tagged” churches also won’t be getting fuel deliveries without a fuel tank repair or replacement. 

Photo Credit: Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Facebook page