Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
The Department of Environmental Protection is holding a hearing this Thursday evening on its proposed rules to implement the new aboveground storage tank law – the one weakened by the legislature earlier this year. Recall that the bill passed earlier this year gutted the bill passed by the legislature during the water crisis – 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.
The Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of making the rules to implement the law. The DEP rules process is another place where industry can push for more exemptions and weak enforcement of the law. The DEP still has a lot of discretion on implementation, including establishing criteria for design and maintenance of tanks and secondary containment facilities, determining fees to assess on storage tank owners, etc. The DEP’s proposed rules are not serious about making storage tank owners show that they’re capable of covering the cost of a potential spill. If the Freedom site had been regulated under these proposed rules, Freedom would have had to demonstrate its ability to pay just $9,600 to cover what is now clearly a multi-million dollar cleanup effort.
The public hearing on the rules will be held Thursday at 6pm at DEP Headquarters (601 57th Street SE, Charleston). Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Aboveground Storage Tank Comments” in the subject line. Suggested talking points include:
1. Rules should not weaken standards for tanks or relax timelines for enforcement;
2. Rules should provide an opportunity for public notice and comment on amendments to permits and plans
before a tank is excused from the Act’s requirements;
3. Registration fees should be established that adequately fund and staff the program; and
4. Bond amounts should be increased so that they cover potential liability of a tank failure.