Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
Our Water WV has gotten an advance copy of Gov. Tomblin’s legislative proposal designed to prevent another disaster like the one the Kanawha Valley is living through right now. Here is a link to that bill, which will probably be introduced in the WV Legislature today. We will provide an updated link and bill number when the bill is officially introduced.
The bill creates a whole new section of the WV Code covering just above ground storage tanks that contain specific kinds of chemicals:
“Regulated material” means each substance having a health hazard of two, three or four, as set forth on the material safety data sheet (MSDS) applicable to each such substance, or any other substance as determined by the National Fire Protection Association or the secretary.
All other liquids, storage facilities and tanks connected with any kind of oil and gas extraction, including materials used in “stimulation,” or any coal industry activities are specifically excluded from the Governor’s proposed “WV Water Source Protection Act.”
As well as imposing new fees on the chemical storage industry to fund expanded WV DEP administrative and emergency response duties, the proposed bill imposes new reporting requirements on all public water systems in WV. While this reporting is sorely needed, under-funded municipal water systems and local publicly owned public service districts will see their costs rise as a result. And, of course, under WV law, all of these new reporting costs for both public and private water companies can be passed on directly to customers. So water rates will rise for everyone who has city water.
The existing text of the Governor’s proposals shows just how bad the current situation is. His bill is a bare minimum effort that exposes what isn’t in WV law now. It is better than any bills currently moving through the Legislature, including Senate Bill 373.
There are three big problems with Gov. Tomblin’s proposed legislation:
So it appears that Governor Tomblin is not serious about protecting the water that West Virginians drink. This bill is a start. But it is also a bill that closes the barn door after the horse is already gone. A leader’s job is to lead. That means looking ahead to the future at all possible threats.
Leadership on water protection is ultimately in our hands, not the politicians’. Once the Governor’s bill is introduced, we need to watch the bill’s progress closely, push for amendments to expand its scope and insure its enforcement, and apply pressure every step of the way on the legislators and committees. Then - we have to follow closely the regulations proposed by DEP Sec. Randy Huffman that wind their way through lobbyists and industry-pet legislators in the legislative rules process.
Only when we have done our jobs as citizens will we know that the situation has been fixed.