(1) The legislature finds that:
(a) Final regulations adopted by the United States environmental protection agency (EPA) require owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks to demonstrate financial responsibility for accidental releases of petroleum as a precondition to continued ownership and operation of such tanks;
(b) Financial responsibility is demonstrated through the purchase of pollution liability insurance or an acceptable alternative such as coverage under a state financial responsibility program, in the amount of at least five hundred thousand dollars per occurrence and one million dollars annual aggregate depending upon the nature, use, and number of tanks owned or operated;
(c) Many owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks cannot purchase pollution liability insurance either because private insurance is unavailable at any price or because owners and operators cannot meet the rigid underwriting standards of existing insurers, nor can many owners and operators meet the strict regulatory standards imposed for alternatives to the purchase of insurance; and
(d) Without a state financial responsibility program for owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks, many tank owners and operators will be forced to discontinue the ownership and operation of these tanks.
(2) The purpose of this chapter is to create a state financial responsibility program meeting EPA standards for owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks in a manner that:
(a) Minimizes state involvement in pollution liability claims management and insurance administration;
(b) Protects the state of Washington from unwanted and unanticipated liability for accidental release claims;
(c) Creates incentives for private insurers to provide needed liability insurance; and
(d) Parallels generally accepted principles of insurance and risk management.
To that end, this chapter establishes a temporary program to provide pollution liability reinsurance at a price that will encourage a private insurance company or risk retention group to sell pollution liability insurance in accordance with the requirements of this chapter to owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks, thereby allowing the owners and operators to comply with the financial responsibility regulations of the EPA. In the event that private insurance is not available in the state, this chapter provides an emergency program to address the need of owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks to demonstrate financial responsibility so that businesses may continue to operate.
(3) It is not the intent of this chapter to permit owners and operators of underground petroleum storage tanks to obtain pollution liability insurance without regard to the quality or condition of their storage tanks or without regard to the risk management practices of tank owners and operators, nor is it the intent of this chapter to provide coverage or funding for past or existing petroleum releases. Further, it is the intent of the legislature that the program follow generally accepted insurance underwriting and actuarial principles and to deviate from those principles only to the extent necessary and within the tax revenue limits provided, to make pollution liability insurance reasonably affordable and available to owners and operators who meet the requirements of this chapter, particularly to those owners and operators whose underground storage tanks meet a vital economic need within the affected community.