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State environmental officials plan a one-time effort to let companies get unregistered or untested gas and oil storage tanks back in compliance with environmental rules, trading leniency for a chance to prevent spills.

The program, announced last week by state Environmental Commissioner John P. Cahill, covers bulk storage tanks exceeding 1,100 gallons. But it won't let owners off the hook if more than the testing and registration certifications are amiss.

"Those who do not take advantage of this opportunity to get their environmental permits in order will face penalties," Cahill warned. "Tightness testing of underground petroleum tanks helps prevent leaks that pose a significant threat to the quality of New York's drinking and ground water supplies."

The state has 43,000 petroleum bulk storage facilities with 92,000 registered tanks holding 1,100 to 400,000 gallons of petroleum products.

The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that, as a result of a backlog of compliance reviews dating back to the late 1980s, 2,800 bulk storage facilities are not registered or are overdue for renewal, and 8,000 tanks are overdue for tightness testing.

Bulk storage facilities that do not have corrosion-resistant underground storage tanks must conduct tightness tests on their tanks every five years. Those with state-of-the art corrosion-resistant tanks routinely must monitor them.

Fines for failure to comply with the policy can reach $25,000 per day, per violation. The new program will give owners 60 days to pay past-due fees and to show that their facilities are registered and their storage tanks have been tested or properly closed.

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