WVPA Sharing

WVPA Sharing: Column from Sen. Mike Hall, State Senate Minority Leader

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The third week of the legislative session is still dominated by the water situation in the region. In spite of the best efforts of the administration, the public remains nervous. Trial lawyers continue to petition for clients. And it was reported in a legislative committee that at least one insurance company is refusing to pay a business continuation claim, which makes matters worse.

There were two legislative efforts introduced to seek to mitigate the situation, one from the Governor, and the other from the State Senate Democratic leadership. The first bill to pass was Senate Bill 373, which has a broad array of new regulation of above ground tanks. There were several exemptions to this new regulation, including those companies that are under federal rules. I asked on the floor of the Senate if there was a list of those companies available. My reason for that is to know how many companies in the region this bill precludes.

Federal regulation may not be as effective as the public would like. After all, the Elk River is a “jurisdictional waterway of the United States” and is therefore under the oversight of the Corp of Engineers. Do they not already keep an eye on potential discharges into the river? They certainly make developers in my area, along with the DEP, put up silt screens to prevent water from going into creeks and tributaries.

I have now been informed that Freedom Industries was required to test the ground water on the sight every six months. This was stated in a meeting with legislative members from the affected areas. The results of those tests were not available at that meeting. It would be interesting to see the results of those tests to see if there may have been an indication of problems. Many in the public believe this leak was a long-standing problem.

Senate Bill 373 has been triple referenced in the House. Those of us who have been here a while view this as a symbolic negative. There appears to be “something going on” with the House’s failure to fast track this bill with such public interest in the issue.

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