CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As chemical tank owners across West Virginia scrambled to meet Wednesday’s deadline to register with state regulators, Department of Environmental Protection officials hosted an unusual daylong session to explain their long-term plan for implementing the new state law meant to prevent a repeat of January’s Freedom Industries leak into the Elk River.
DEP officials briefed about 70 industry lobbyists, citizen activists, engineers and consultants, providing a section-by-section review of a rough draft of the agency’s 79-page rule to implement the Above Ground Storage Tank Act portions of SB 373.
The Tomblin administration released the draft version to allow for more give-and-take with the public and the regulated community before filing a formal draft for a legally required public comment period and a review by lawmakers during the 2015 regular legislative session.
“We knew the rulemaking process was going to be important,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said. “Given the interest, we made a commitment to engage stakeholders in the process.”
In writing the rule, the DEP is responding to a legislative mandate that it create a program to regulate above-ground chemical storage tanks, or ASTs. Lawmakers ordered the move after the leak of the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM from Freedom Industries, an incident that contaminated the Elk River drinking-water source for hundreds of thousands of people in Charleston and surrounding communities.
Through Wednesday — the legal deadline for registering ASTs with the DEP — agency officials said at least 46,000 registrations had been filed…