2015 Legislative Wrap-Up

On Saturday, the legislature passed Senate Bill 423. This bill weakened the Aboveground Storage Tank Act passed a year ago – reducing the number of regulated tanks from nearly 50,000 to 12,000; reducing the frequency of inspections; and allowing even more tanks to be exempted if they show compliance with existing DEP permits.

This rollback cannot be blamed solely on the Republican takeover during the November election; corporate influence at the legislature cuts across party lines. The former democratic Speaker of the House, Tim Miley, led the charge to rollback the Aboveground Storage Tank Act on behalf of the natural gas industry last summer. Industry knew last year that fighting the tank bill during the water crisis would have been much more difficult than waiting for public attention to dissipate and then gutting the bill later – as they did.

Almost regardless of the actual content of the bill, the symbolism of the Legislature rolling back the Aboveground Storage Tank Act – widely seen as *the* state’s response to the water crisis – really doesn’t look good. It signals that the legislature is not serious about addressing the underlying problem of under-regulation that led to the Freedom Industries leak in the first place.

In order to recover from last year’s water crisis, Charleston needs to use the crisis as an opportunity to transform the image of the city – from one that had its water supply poisoned to one that implemented changes to have some of the safest water in the country. That is the only way to regain the trust of the public and local businesses for the long haul. The city has not yet taken the initiative to do this. And the legislature is certainly not helping.

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