Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
Sen. John Unger’s (why is a Berkeley County senator taking the lead on this, Kanawha County legislators?) bill to really regulate above ground storage tanks, has now passed out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee and is on its way to the Senate floor for a vote.
As always, Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward has the story. As you would have guessed, some Republicans tried to block or weaken the bill in committee, but they failed. It appears that Sen. Unger’s bill (Senate Bill 373) will be the bill that the Legislature uses to write new regulations into WV law.
You can follow all bills at the Legislature on the Bill Status page at this link. To follow SB373, just type “373″ in the “Bill quick search” column. When you click “Submit” the program will bring up the history of the bill, including the different forms of the bill as it moves through the Legislature. It is particularly important for you to track different forms of the bill, because this bill has already been extensively amended in each committee through which it has passed so far. The second amended committee substitute, the current form of the bill is not yet posted on the Bill Status page, but it should be up there soon.
The bill must be read three days on the floor of the Senate and must pass through the Senate Rules Committee before it goes to the Senate floor for a vote. You can learn about the whole legislative process from our Citizens Guide. When it passes the Senate, the bill crosses over to the House where it is assigned to House committees. You can follow the bill’s progress on the Bill Status page at the link above.
The Governor’s bill, which I discussed earlier here, was introduced on Wednesday. It is House Bill 4258. The bill as also introduced in the Senate as SB417. You can follow either of these bills from the Legislature’s Bill Status page. HB4258 has been referenced to House Judiciary and Finance. SB417 has been referenced to Senate Natural Resources and then Judiciary.
So there are now two bills to improve regulation of above ground storage tanks at the Legislature. Only one bill will end up as law. One of the Governor’s bills could be merged with SB373 in a committee substitute in the House, or the Legislature could decide to let some bills die in committee and continue passing the one they want.
You need to watch the bill as it changes. The lobbyists will be working hard to stop real progress. They do that through amendments in committee discussions and votes.
The WV Environmental Council has excellent updates from their lobby team. Here is a link to the January 17 Update. Use the Web site to get updates by email from the E Council. You will also get alerts about what legislators you need to call or email to stop the gutting of our bills. The E Council covers all bills concerning chemical regulation and clean water, not just the narrow issues in the Unger and Tomblin bills. We need to let our legislators know that we want healthy water across WV, not just in the current crisis area.