Lawmakers are considering a change to the way natural gas accidents are reported at the state level.
The House Industry and Labor Committee took up a bill Tuesday that clarifies who is alerted in the event of an accident on a natural gas well site or pipeline.
House Bill 4323 requires all such incidents be reported to the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management within fifteen minutes or face a 50 thousand dollar fine.
The bill was produced through the work of a special commission set up to review and update existing laws and regulations governing the state’s oil and natural gas industry.
Some members of the Industry and Labor Committee felt that the penalty was too high given the short amount of time allowed to report an incident, so an amendment was added to the bill. The change allows the Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to assess a fine between $2500 dollars and $50,000 dollars for not reporting the incident.
Larry Malone is the Director of Policy for Governor Tomblin, and is the Chairman of the West Virginia Commission on Oil and Natural Gas Industry Safety. He says the amendment adds flexibility, but it doesn’t hurt the integrity of the bill.
“It doesn’t really change the fact that you could be assessed $50,000 dollars, it just provides the director with some discretion based upon the situation about whether he assesses the maximum fine or some fine that’s in-between, but again, to-date, nobody has been assessed, no company’s been assessed that fine, because they have all understood and responded appropriately when they have these types of emergency incidents,” Malone explained.
The committee passed House Bill 4323, 16 to 5. It now moves to the House Energy Committee before going to the full House for consideration.