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House Judiciary Committee advances gentler storage tank bill


The State Journal

CHARLSTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates’ committee on the judiciary added amendments to a storage tank bill on Monday, March 13 that could assuage many of the objections to the legislation.

The original bill, House Bill 2811, would have exempted about 29,000 storage tanks, generally used by the oil and gas industry to store crude oil and brine, from registration with the state Department of Environmental Protection under the state’s Aboveground Storage Tank Act. That legislation was passed in the wake of the 2014 Elk River chemical spill in Charleston that left about 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water for up to two weeks.

At a public hearing on the bill earlier Monday, supporters and opponents of the legislation were almost equally split. Those in support of the bill, almost exclusively in the oil and gas industry, said the tanks covered under House Bill 2811 were generally smaller tanks that were miles away from water intakes and were already subject to regulation by the EPA. They also said it cost too much to label and register all of the tanks with the state.

Those opposed to the legislation said removing the tanks from extra regulation was not worth the risk to the state’s water supplies. Even if most of the tanks were well away from public water intakes, some said, some were still near wells or springs many rural West Virginians rely on for their water supplies. They said residents deserved to know what was in the tanks.

Also opposed were members of the Morgantown Utility Board, who worried bromides, radioactive elements and heavy metals that could be in the brine could get into public water supplies if one of the tanks should leak.

At a House Judiciary Committee meeting later Monday, Ruth Porter of the state DEP said between August 2016 and January, there were 11 leaks in storage tanks that would be exempted under House Bill 2811 that breached the tanks’ secondary containment systems. Three of the releases made it into streams, two of which were above a public water intake.

One of those tanks is still leaking into a stream, Porter said.

The Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment to House Bill 2811 on Monday afternoon. Although oil and gas owners would not have to register their storage tanks with DEP under the provisions of the amendment, they would still be required to label the tanks with their contents and notify emergency officials about what is in them.

The amended bill is on its way to the full House for a vote.


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