|Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire|
In January of 1999, the Owners became aware that the underground gasoline storage tanks had begun to leak, resulting in the contamination of the Property. Several months later, the Owners removed these tanks and commenced remediation procedures, seeking recovery from the Pennsylvania Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board (“USTIF”) for the costs incurred. After conducting forensic testing of the Property, USTIF concluded that some of the gasoline spillage predated the 1994 eligibility cut-off date and prorated the Owners’ reimbursement to forty-three percent (43%) of the total cleanup costs. Thereafter, the Owners commenced an action against Sunoco pursuant to Section 1305(c) of the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act (“Tank Act”) (35 P.S. §§ 6021.101-6021.2104) seeking recovery for the remaining clean-up costs based on Sunoco’s ownership of the Property from June 17, 1965 through May 12, 1976. The trial court entered summary judgment for Sunoco concluding, inter alia, that Sunoco was not an “owner” or “operator” as defined by the Tank Act, and that the Owners had failed to establish that any of the contamination had occurred during the time that Sunoco held title to the Property.
On appeal, our Superior Court affirmed. In issuing its ruling, the court noted that the Tank Act became effective in 1989 and, by its language, applies only to owners of storage tanks from its effective date forward. In this matter, there was no dispute that Sunoco had divested itself of title to the Property in 1976, well before the effective date of the Tank Act. Furthermore, there was nothing in the record to support a conclusion that Sunoco had served as the operator of the Property during the effective period of the Tank Act, as its involvement was limited to its delivering gasoline to the Property and placing it in underground storage tanks over which it had a no control. For these reasons, Sunoco was neither an “owner” nor an “operator” under the Tank Act, and the trial court had properly entered summary judgment against the Owners.