Taxpayers in three different states — Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois — are on the hook to the tune of $20 million in environmental cleanup costs thanks to an environmental disaster caused by gas stations owned Mike Pence’s family.
The Pence family used to own the chain of Tobacco Road convenience stores, before they went belly-up during the bankruptcy of Kiel Brothers Oil Company, which was owned by Vice President Pence’s brother, Greg (currently running for Congress in Indiana). Page 4 of then-Congressman Mike Pence’s 2003 financial disclosure form showed that the future vice president owned between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of stock in the company.
Despite Pence saying he grew up “on the front row of the American dream” in reference to his family’s approximately 200 gas stations, Kiel Brothers had a history of environmental abuse. The state of Indiana filed multiple complaints against the company over storage tanks that leaked contaminants into the soil and groundwater.
“[R]ecords indicate that the Respondent has experienced at least 27 other spills, two of which resulted in the issuance of warning letters,” read one complaint filed by the Indiana Office of Environmental Response in 1999.
Despite the company’s long record of environmental neglect, taxpayers in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky have been the ones to pay for the cleanup Pence’s company caused. On Friday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Indiana alone had to pay $21 million to clean up various contaminated sites for roughly $500,000 apiece. Roughly 50 other sites in Kentucky and Illinois racked up another $1.7 million in publicly funded cleanup costs.
The AP also reported that even though former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan (D) ordered Kiel Brothers to pay $8.4 million in cleanup and fines, his successor, Mitch Daniels (R) reversed that order. Gov. Daniels even appointed Greg Pence to the #2 post in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management not long after Kiel Brothers filed for bankruptcy in order to “streamline” the agency and make it more business-friendly, according to the Indianapolis Star. However, he left the job after just two months.
Alyssa Farah, a spokesperson for the vice president, called the controversy “a years-old issue” that Pence had addressed in the past, though she offered no further details.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.