Ashton Marra Published

Groups Working with Governor, DEP to Avoid Special Session on Tank Bill


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.

Representatives of business, industry and citizen groups met with DEP Secretary Randy Huffman and members of Governor Tomblin’s staff to discuss their concerns over moving the deadline to comply with tank inspections required by the bill.

House Speaker Tim Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler have asked the governor to call a special session for lawmakers to reconsider the January 1 deadline.

Co-founder of the West Virginia Sustainable Business Council Nancy Ward says pushing back the deadline won’t help her business regain the customer trust it lost during the water crisis.

“Weakening the bill or pushing back deadlines [won’t help],” Ward said.

Jeni Burns, Ward’s Sustainable Business Council co-founder, said at Friday’s meeting, Huffman presented his department’s proposal for rules to regulate above ground tanks.

The system includes three levels of classification with regulations for each, but representatives of the DEP didn’t respond to requests for a more detailed explanation.

The group is working to avoid a special session by fixing the unintended consequences of the legislation and addressing the concerns of interested parties through rulemaking.

“If we go into special session, we kind of leave it up in the air for whatever to happen,” Burns said, “but if we can sit down around the table and look at the best interest of everybody they represent and try to come to a solution, I think that’s better in the long run for West Virginians.”

Tomblin will ultimately decide if a special session is necessary. Members of his staff say he will likely make that decision in the next few weeks.