Senate Bill 373

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Groups lobbying for strong regulations to protect that state’s water resources gathered at the Capitol Monday to tell lawmakers not to pass a bill they say will gut the above ground storage tank legislation passed last year.

The West Virginia Safe Water Roundtable, comprised of multiple citizen action groups and affiliated with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, spoke out against House Bill 2574.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After the chemical leak from the Freedom Industries site was discovered, some blame was quickly placed on the state Department of Environmental Protection for not properly regulating the tanks. But soon enough, both the public and state lawmakers found out the DEP had no authority over the inspection of those tanks.

That quickly changed as the 2014 legislative session progressed, passing a law to create a registration and inspection program.

West Virginia Legislature

Senate President Jeff Kessler says the governor's rule to ease inspections in a law regulating aboveground storage tanks undermines the Legislature.

Kessler told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should have called a special session instead of proposing the rule. Kessler wanted lawmakers to pass a one-year delay of the Jan. 2015 initial inspection deadline.


When the legislature passed Senate Bill 373, they mandated the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection create a program to register and inspect all above ground storage tanks, something the state had never done before.

The bill came in response to January's chemical spill in Charleston that left 300,000 people without drinking water for days, but for months storage tanks owners have been left with only some vague guidelines about having their tanks registered and inspected by the dates mandated in law. 

Freedom Industries

  Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is planning administrative fixes instead of a special session to adjust a law regulating aboveground storage tanks.

Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman says the governor won't call a special session, as legislative leaders had urged. Lawmakers are already in Charleston this week for interim committee meetings.

Stadelman says the administration plans to put a higher priority on inspections for tanks near water supplies. He says tanks holding hazardous materials will also take priority.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Stakeholders met with the governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection Friday to discuss possibly calling the legislature into a special session. The session would be focused on fixing some unintended consequences both Senate and House leadership see in the above ground storage tank bill passed earlier this year.

Friday’s meeting was the second this week focused on Senate Bill 373, legislation that came as a response to January’s chemical spill in Charleston. The spill contaminated 300,000 people’s drinking water for as many as ten days.

Kanawha Charleston Health Department

Senate President Jeff Kessler has announced his appointment to a statewide panel that will focus on the quality of public water systems in West Virginia.

Kessler announced in a press release the appointment of Kanawha- Charleston Health Department Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta to the panel. Gupta will serve as a non-voting member.

West Virginia Legislature

Delegate Meshea Poore has asked Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to call a special session to focus solely on legislation to protect the state’s water supply. She's received bipartisan support in her request from more than 20 delegates, including many from the nine counties directly affected by the water crisis.

However, House Speaker Tim Miley and Judiciary Chair Tim Manchin disagree and say that deliberations on Senate Bill 373 will continue.

The House of Delegates' Health, Judiciary, and Finance Committees held a joint public hearing Monday evening about the Elk River chemical spill.

On this special extended edition of The Legislature Today,  citizens tell lawmakers how they’ve been affected by the chemical contamination of their drinking water. 

West Virginia Legislature

Senate Bill 373, the bill regulating above ground storage tanks, advanced through the committee process quickly this week causing concern for some members of the upper chamber.

In a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, many expressed more time was necessary with the bill. Despite the discontent with the process, the bill was passed by the committee unanimously Thursday.

“It has moved more quickly than a lot of bills do in the Legislature,” said Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Corey Palumbo Friday, “but I think the public wants to see us act.”