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Chemical tank ‘rollback’ appears headed for passage

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation that dismantles large portions of the chemical tank safety bill passed after last year’s Freedom Industries leak appears headed for passage, following a narrow approval late Monday night by the House Judiciary Committee.

Committee members approved the bill (SB 423) by a 13-12 vote taken at about 11:30 p.m,, following the defeat of an amendment aimed at strengthening parts of the bill at the end of a more than four-hour meeting. That amendment failed by an identical margin.

“This bill is a rollback of all we accomplished last year,” said Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson.

Skinner and other Democrats on Judiciary had spent several hours questioning the committee lawyer, Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman and Homeland Security Director Jimm Gianato about the legislation, proposed to answer concerns from various business groups — especially oil and gas lobbyists — that last year’s Aboveground Storage Tank Act was too broad and strict.

The bill, which easily passed the Senate on Feb. 28, now heads to the House floor. It has the support of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and is closer in scope to the bill initially proposed last year by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin than the final version that emerged following intense discussions and review by five legislative committees.

 Under the legislation, the number of chemical storage tanks covered by new state safety standards would likely drop from nearly 50,000 to at most about 12,000…

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