Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
WV DEP has taken a big step in the development of its emergency rules on above ground storage tanks. On April 10, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman sent a letter to a limited number of people inviting them to provide comments for the rules that DEP is required to develop under the recently passed SB 373 regulating above ground storage tanks in WV. Although this letter went to only two representatives of citizens’ groups, Sec. Huffman made it clear that he wanted to rules process expanded to everyone who has a stake in clean water in WV. Here is a link to Sec. Huffman’s letter.
Sec. Huffman invites initial comments on the development of rules by May 15. If you want to make suggestions for what goes into the first draft of the rules, you need to submit them in less than a month. Your suggestions should be based on the specific authority that DEP was granted in SB 373 and should provide specifics about what should be done. A number of organizations will be submitting initial comments.
If you are not an expert, as I am not, your big chance will come later in the summer once DEP has a draft of the rules. Here is Sec. Huffman’s explanation:
Because this will be a new program within DEP, and because of the myriad of interests at stake, we are going to approach this rule differently than we do others. First, we would like your input before we actually draft the rule. We would like for you to provide us with a list of things (in either bulleted list or paragraph form) you would like to see addressed in the rule and the way you would like to see them addressed. DEP will use this information, in addition to the information that will be provided on the tank registration forms, to prepare a fust draft of the rule. We need this information from you no later than May 15, 2014. You can provide that information to us via email at Scott.G.Mandirola@wv.gov or regular U.S. mail addressed to:
Scott G. Mandirola, Director
DEP Division of Water & Waste Management
60 I 57th Street, SE
Charleston, WV 25304
Once we finish the first draft of the rule, which we anticipate will be around mid-July, we will send it to you for review and further comment. We will then schedule a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss and debate the draft. You may send written comments at any time during the process. After we have processed these comments, we will revise the draft rule accordingly and officially file it with the Secretary of State as an emergency rule no later than December 2014. At that time, we will also put it out to public notice and comment, which includes a process by which the public can submit written comments, as well as a public hearing.
As Sec. Huffman says, this invitation to all of us to participate in rule making is a new step for DEP. We need to help them make it a success by providing our thoughtful and constructive help. Who knows, if it works in this case, they may be encouraged to open up all their rules processes to the public like this.
As we learned from Gov. Tomblin’s secret meeting with industry lobbyists back in January, we need complete transparency as we develop these emergency rules. When you send Mr. Mandirola your email or letter requesting that he put you on the mailing list for the emergency rules process, you should also tell him that you would like all rules comments posted publicly on the WV DEP Web site. We don’t want any secret industry comments coming in the back door.
Even if you don’t intend to file any comments, registering to get notices and draft rules is a good way to follow what is going on in the process. So contact Mr. Mandirola and tell him you want to be put on his “stakeholder” list, along with your request that they post all comments on the DEP Web site. If you care about clean water in our state, you need to participate in this process. One thing is certain, the coal, oil/gas and chemical industry lobbyists will participate, and they aren’t there to protect your interests or your water.
So far, Sec. Huffman has lived up to his promise to open up the rules process. Here is what he told Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward last week:
“If you want to be a stakeholder, you can be a stakeholder,” Huffman said. “We want it to be as open a process as possible.”