WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday published a rule that limits lenders' responsibility when they make loans to owners of underground storage tanks.

Under the rule, published in the Federal Register, secured creditors such as banks will be exempted from environmental liablity rules that apply to owners and operators of underground tanks, provided they meet certain conditions. For example, a bank would have to be actively involved in the management of a leaking storage tank to be held liable for the pollution.

EPA requires owners and operators of tanks that hold hazardous substances to prevent, detect, and clean up leaks and compensate third parties for any damages caused by the leaks.

Because ownership is broadly defined, some banks that extended credit or foreclosed on property with such tanks were covered by the agency's rules.

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