CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates decided Friday to change the Aboveground Storage Tank Act passed last year following the Freedom Industries chemical spill and water emergency.

The bill (SB423) passed 78-21 and was returned to the Senate with the final day of the 60-day regular session set for Saturday.

Some opponents of the bill argued it represents a rollback of the comprehensive step lawmakers took in 2014 to insure clean drinking water.

“I’m not surprised at any of you but I am hugely disappointed,” Del. Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha) said. “Now we can all be known as the West Virginia House that loves our dirty water.”

But supporters of the bill argued it will strengthen the current law by requiring the state Department of Environmental Protection to focus more on storage tanks that are closest to public water sources.

The bill would regulate tanks in two zones: “zones of critical concern,” those within five hours water travel time from public water intakes, and the newly-created “zones of peripheral concern,” those within 10 hours water travel time from public water intakes.

Additionally, all tanks outside of those zones that store more than 50,000 gallons of liquids or those containing hazardous chemicals would also be subjected to regulations from the DEP.

The House changed the bill to require some inspections every three years.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) said last year’s bill overshot the target and this year’s bill is “not retrench or retreat, but refocus.”

The House rejected a few proposed amendments to the bill Friday.