Legislative wrap up for the week
SB 373, the bill to regulate aboveground storage tanks, is still in the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee has made some changes to the bill, but hasn’t passed it out of their committee yet. Here are some of the key changes:
- Changed the exemptions in the bill. Rather than the long list of exemptions that existed in the previous version of the bill, the Judiciary’s version simply exempts all tanks smaller than 1320 gallons and all tanks used for manufacturing chemicals, as opposed to storing them. The Gazette article’s summary of the new language doesn’t give any rationale for this change.
- Got rid of the problematic requirement that all utilities develop either a secondary intake or water storage capability. Such a provision would dramatically increase costs on small, rural PSDs and, ironically, increase the pressure on them to sell out to WV American Water’s large regional systems.
- Requires all facilities in the zone of critical concern of a drinking water intake currently holding a general Clean Water Act NPDES permit to apply for and hold a site-specific permit
- Requires – and provides funding to develop – Protection Plans for the zones of critical concern for their drinking water intakes, and require those plans to be regularly updated
The latter two additions to the bill are recommendations that community groups have been pushing for the past several weeks. The Judiciary Committee still has not added the following recommendations:
- Eliminate all exemptions in the bill
- Give citizens the ability to sue to enforce the law when state agencies fail to do so
- Create protective standards for chemicals used in large quantities in West Virginia.
- Create a commission to implement the Chemical Safety Board’s recommendation of creating a Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program
The Judiciary Committee will be meeting Sunday to continue work on, and possibly vote on, the bill. Its not too late to contact committee members over the weekend.
The last day of the legislative session is next Saturday, March 8th. SB 373 needs to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee, get through the House Finance Committee, AND be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill before next Saturday.
Some lawmakers, apparently worried that this won’t happen, are asking the governor to call a “special session” to pass the tank regulation bill. The danger in this approach is that it gives the governor another shot at rewriting the tank bill before introducing it into the special session. This is pretty much what happened in 2011 when Governor Tomblin called a special session on Marcellus shale drilling and introduced his version of a bill that was a much weaker version of a bill drafted by a Joint legislative committee that had been working on the issue for most of the year.