From The Intelligencer of Wheeling:
West Virginia legislators’ reaction to a chemical leak into the Elk River at Charleston more than three years ago was understandable. They enacted what came to be known as the “tank bill,” establishing strict rules for owners of storage tanks throughout the state.
Water supplies for more than 300,000 people were contaminated by the spill, from a tank owned by Freedom Industries. Lawmakers and then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin were eager to keep a similar problem from occurring again.
But they went too far.
Even relatively small storage tanks containing substances that pose little, if any, threat to humans are regulated. Even those far from streams come under the law.
That has been a challenge for the state’s most promising industry, oil and gas drilling and processing. Small companies involved in oil and gas complain the rules are a substantial financial burden to them.
They also note that for the most part, the small tanks at their sites contain only brine water, along with a few chemicals and perhaps a trace of crude oil.
Oil and gas drillers make another excellent point: Their record on storage tank safety is excellent. On the rare occasions when there have been leaks, they have created few, if any, problems for human beings or water supplies.
A bill in the House of Delegates would give the energy industry — and other small business people — relief from the tank law’s more expensive provisions. It would not lessen safeguards against events such as the Freedom Industries leak. Storage tanks near drinking water intake pipes would continue under the current regulations.
Some opponents of the bill make a curious, deeply flawed argument. They insist complying with the law costs drillers well under $100 for each of their storage tanks. Relief from the law simply is not needed, the critics claim.
But many in the oil and gas industries, along with organizations representing them, have worked hard to convince legislators to approve the changes. Why on earth would they do so if the rules were not doing substantial financial harm to them?
Legislators should approve the bill and send it to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature. Forcing any business to operate under unnecessary regulations makes no sense, especially in a state where our economy is in desperate need of help — and many West Virginians need jobs.