Monday, March 16, 2015

GOP-led W.Va. House passes bill to scale back chemical storage-tank law passed after 2014 spill

The West Virginia House, taken over by Republicans in the fall election, easily passed a bill Friday "to scale back West Virginia’s year-old law regulating above ground chemical storage tanks" like the one that in January 2014 that caused water for 300,000 residents to be contaminated, Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette. The bill passed 78-21. (Wikipedia map: Counties affected by 2014 chemical spill in Elk River)

"The bill exempts from new safety and inspection requirements more than 36,000 chemical tanks that would have been covered by the law unanimously approved last year to try to avoid a repeat of the Freedom Industries chemical leak," Ward writes. "An opt-out provision allowing tank owners to comply with existing state permits instead of the new tank standards is expected to drop that number to perhaps as few as 90 tanks covered by the safety law."

"House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, defended the bill as a reasonable response to what industry lobbyists and their supporters have insisted were 'unintended consequences' of last year’s law," Ward writes. "The bill has the support of the state Department of Environmental Protection and, because of expanded secrecy provisions for data about chemical tank contents and locations, the Division of Homeland Security."

The bill also "eases oversight of chemical storage tanks by cutting back on mandated state inspections, allowing lesser safety standards for some tanks, and blocking public access to some information about hazardous materials stored near drinking-water intakes," Ward writes.

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