CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On the last night of their session, West Virginia legislators passed a bill in response to the Elk River chemical leak that dominated both the 2014 legislative session and the Kanawha Valley’s attention for the past two months.
Assuming Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs the bill into law, many questions remain about how well the new law will regulate chemical storage tanks and better prepare water utilities for disasters like the Freedom Industries spill.
Asked Sunday if the governor would sign the bill — which has been significantly altered from the version he had introduced — Tomblin’s spokeswoman indicated that he likely would.
“As with all bills that come to the governor, he will review them thoroughly,” Amy Shuler Goodwin, Tomblin’s communications director, wrote in an email. “However, the bill passed last night with input from the citizens of the Kanawha Valley, the DEP, legislative leadership and members of our state legislature is a bill with the best interest of all West Virginians in mind.”
The bill contains several provisions — a long-term study of health effects, required inspections from the state Department of Environmental Protection and an early warning monitoring system at West Virginia American Water Company — that were not in the original version supported by Tomblin.
If the governor signs the bill, the state Department of Environmental Protection would begin making a long list of rules — which would be approved by the Legislature in 2015 — that would stipulate how the law is carried out.
Among the most contentious of those rules: what kind of tanks may not have to be inspected…