The 2015 West Virginia Legislature is considering changes to last year’s aboveground storage tank law that established rules and regulations intended to prevent a re-occurrence of last year’s water crisis.
The act was passed toward the end of the legislative session, in which lawmakers devoted considerable time responding to the Great Water Crisis of 2014.
A bill introduced in the House of Delegates on Tuesday would significantly reduce the number of aboveground storage tanks that would have to be registered and inspected on an annual basis.
House Bill 2574 redefines aboveground storage tanks to be regulated under the law as only tanks that are in the “zone of critical concern” or near water sources.
The bill says tanks less than 10,000 gallons would be exempt from the new regulations along with tanks holding materials related to the natural gas industry, since those tanks are already covered by existing regulations.
Just the fact that the bill was brought up has some people worried that legislators are trying to weaken the law. The fact is, the bill can be changed significantly to reduce the expensive burden of complying with the law on small oil and gas producers and others with tanks that are no threat to drinking water supplies.
The Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia filed comments saying the proposed rule under the law, issued late last year by state Department of Environmental Protection, will be crippling to many small producers.
IOGA added that the regulations are duplicative and sometimes conflict with other regulatory standards they must follow.
House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, made clear on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval that there is no intent to weaken protections of water supplies.
“We are not going to take the teeth out of the law,” Armstead said. “It’s important that we protect our water systems.”
It’s not just Republicans who agree the bill needs corrected. Of House Bill 2574’s 10 sponsors, four are Democrats.
“We have to stop polarizing people and acting like we are gutting the water bill to fix things that went too far,” House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said during a West Virginia Press Association breakfast Thursday.
Lawmakers know they can correct problems with last year’s aboveground storage tank act while still protecting water systems around the state.