The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

January 27, 2014

Bill proposed to regulate storage tanks sees changes

BECKWITH — The language of Senate Bill 373 has become as fluid as the substance it is written to protect.

The bill to regulate above-ground storage tanks began at the pen of Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley; Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin offered his recommendations, as well. A committee substitute melded the two versions and passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee Wednesday. Thursday, after a three-hour Judiciary Committee meeting, SB 373 has a committee substitute for the committee substitute.

The bill passed unanimously, but not without some contentious debate.

Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, asked that the bill be delayed. His motion was defeated along party lines, as was Republican Sen. Chris Walters’ motion to exempt coal mine bathhouses.

Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said he thinks the bill was “jammed through” both committees.

“We need better regulation of above-ground storage tanks,” Cole said. “We owe it to the people of West Virginia that they have a clean water supply. It’s easy to vote for strict regulations on above-ground storage tanks.”

But Cole said he feared the bill is not in the best interest of West Virginia businesses.

Chances are good the bill will be changed in the future, said Sen. Sam Cann, D-Harrison. But he said he was glad the Senate has taken the lead in saying “we care about our water.”

No written version of the Judiciary Committee’s adaptation of the bill was available after the meeting.

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Randy Huffman said the bill gives his agency regulatory oversight it lacked when dealing with above-ground storage tanks, although the agency does have the authority to inspect any property in the state.

“Is this bill strong enough? The answer is yes,” Huffman said. “Could it be debated? We all know the answer.”

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