Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tanks For The Memories

West Virginia passed legislation regulating safety of all  the state's chemical storage tanks in the wake of last year's chemical spill that contaminated tap water for more than 300,000 people.  Over the weekend however, Republicans rewrote the legislation to cover only a quarter of the state's tanks, in a major victory for chemical and energy companies.

The bill had the backing of several industry groups, including the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, based in Charleston. “This new legislation really narrows the focus of the regulations on the tanks that are by definition the ones that would present the most danger to drinking water supplies,” said Rebecca Randolph, president of the group. 
Environmental groups fought the measure. “It reduces the regulation of tens of thousands of above-ground storage tanks, some of which have the potential to contaminate drinking water,” said Evan Hansen, president of Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting company based in Morgantown, W.Va. 
Mr. Hansen said opponents of the bill had presented alternatives that were all rejected. “There were compromises that were possible that would have provided regulatory relief for thousands of tanks while still protecting the integrity of the act,” he said. 
Until the passage of last year’s law, one of the strictest in the nation, environmental officials didn’t know how many above-ground storage tanks were in the state. 
Under the new measure, stricter rules regarding inspections and maintenance are required for about 5,000 tanks. Those contain at least 50,000 gallons, store certain hazardous substances or are within a “zone of critical concern,” defined as falling within five hours travel time along a river to a drinking water system intake. 
Another 7,000 tanks that are within 10 hours travel time of a water intake would also be covered but with less stringent requirements. Other changes include scaling back what were annual state inspections of tanks in the zone of critical concern to once every three years.

The rest of the state's other 38,000 plus tanks?  Well, who knows and who cares.  The free market will see to those.  And should another major chemical leak happen in those bigger tanks between three-year inspections, well, residents have been through it before, they'll know what to do.  We can't have businesses spending money of ludicrous things like "keeping public drinking water safe."

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