CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) said state officials do need to address, what he calls, the “unintended consequences” of the the Above Ground Storage Act — the legislation written in response to the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical spill that contaminated tap water in parts of nine counties.

“There are some consequences that impact, primarily, small operators that I don’t think were fully appreciated and considered as we were passing what many considered a monumental piece of legislation here in West Virginia,” Miley admitted on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

In part, that legislation, SB 373, requires registrations and inspections of above ground storage tanks in West Virginia. The law took effect in June.

Now, Miley said he’s hearing about the legislation’s effects on the small oil and gas operators throughout the Mountain State who have conventional wells — meaning wells that are not drawing from the Marcellus shale.

“I have heard from any number of those conventional well operators and the cost of meeting the requirements of the new legislation is fatal to some of their businesses,” Miley wrote in a letter sent to Gov. Tomblin earlier this month.

He’s asking that the state Department of Environmental Protection attempt to address the issues during the rule-making process. If that is not possible, Miley said Tomblin could delay the implementation of the part of the law dealing with small operators with an executive order or lawmakers could take up the bill again in a Special Session or during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session.

Miley said there are 40,000 above ground storage tanks for oil and gas in West Virginia that now must be registered with the state even if they are outside of the zones of critical concern and not a threat to the water supply. Those tanks must be inspected and certified by a professional engineer before Jan. 1.

Dennis Xander, one of the affected gas operators from Buckhannon, said such requirements are unrealistic. He said, if enough registered engineers could be found, “Let’s do the math. There’s roughly 250 work days in year. One inspector could, maybe, do a thousand tanks a year and now you’re asking them to do 40,000 tanks by Jan. 1.”

Operators of tanks that are not registered, as the law requires, by Oct. 1 could face a potential fine of $10,000 per tank for each day a tank remains unregistered. “Certainly, this is going to cause a lot of sleeplessness for some of West Virginia’s leading citizens,” Miley wrote.

Xander estimated the costs of the new law will add up to $300,000 more annually for his company. “I can promise you that our net income from our wells is not $300,000 a year,” Xander said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“Nobody is against protecting our water. Nobody. People sometimes ignore the fact that guys like me and our children and grandchildren drink that same water and we’re very sensitive to it. There are already things in effect (for oil and gas tanks) that protect that water.”

Early drafts of the bill did not include the tanks for those smaller operators.

“What the bill was meant to address was (A) the large tanks that contain large quantities of containments, like the Freedom spill did, and those that were in areas or zones of critical concern,” Miley said. “As of result, the language was perhaps looser or more broad than it needed to be.”

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Comments

  • Roger

    Very typical for our legislators; fool around for most of the session and get nothing done except to shoot the bull, or go to a different dinner party each night, (with plenty of free booze) but then wait until the last minute of the session and then vote to pass bills that they have not even read, much less understand. Then after the fact when they discover that the bills had unintended consequences, they need to waste time and money to try and correct their mistakes. Get it right the first time or leave it alone.

  • rick

    Result of knee jerk legislation. The public outcry was great on this issue ...that is until they saw what it really did...and the price tag...now they have buyer's remorse.

  • Thecrow2123

    My company has 1700 of those tanks. Probably 95% of them only contain brine water. The others have drip gas and crude oil in them along with brine. Most are no where near a stream or river. Some are. All are either within dykes or in double walled self contained dykes.

    Our cost to have them inspected, just that cost, not any cost associated with any repairs or replacements if they deem it needed, 1.5 million or here abouts.

    My company is a very responsible company who at all times strives to perform within the laws. It is hammered into us all the time.

    There are other costs too. Like the new yearly registration fee of from $100 to $500 a tank just for starters.

    There has already been talk of possible lay offs and even them selling out and leaving WV because they simply don't make enough with the low pressure, low volume gas here in WV to offset this along with everything else.

    Thanks Legislature for rushing into this for political gain and revenues and costing your people many, many good paying jobs and another hit to the local economy's.

  • liberty4all

    I think what we're seeing has little to do with poor leadership but the consequences of having a part-time legislation that typically has hundreds of issues to try and address in any given short session, in addition to every legislator's favorite pet projects they wish to push through. Things were compounded by the water crisis this year. Then there's the election year politics of introducing legislation which has no intention of being passed but simply to get a vote on the record to be used against someone in the fall election.

    While I am a fan of small government and believe that the less that is done the better, even I have to admit It's a wonder there are not more than a couple of examples (minimum wage and water bill - not counting juvenile bill as not clear the consequences were unintended versus judicially interpreted).

    I also do not attribute this to leadership because in these couple of examples, the final legislation was vetted, debated, and ultimately approved in a largely bipartisan fashion. Nobody, including the all knowing posters on this site, was warning us of the consequences. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    I do think leadership is shown when mistakes are acknowledged and steps are taken to fix them (in life and in politics). Apparently I see it differently than other posters on here. I'm glad to see steps are being taken and hope it can be fixed without a special session.

    As for the call by another commenter for Thompson's return, let's not forget he up and left the House Speakership for the sake of fattening his own pension. Is that the type of leadership we want to see from our elected officials?

    • Aaron

      What were seeing exactly has to do poor leadership. The issue is that the tanks have to be inspected and certified by state approved engineers. The cost of adhering to this requirement was brought up during the session by many yet it was implemented anyhow.

      • liberty4all

        Implemented by EVERYONE voting for the bill (except for 2 delegates not present for the vote). So is this leadership crisis (which is a recurrent theme of yours) present in both parties? In both the Senate and House? So do you argue to throw all of them out and not elect any incumbent, or is it just one side of the aisle you have issues with? And why does the responsibility of comprehending a piece of legislation fall on "leadership" (of either party) versus each individual delegate/senator?

  • Aaron

    This is what, the 4th or 5th piece of legislation that from the last legislative session that had "unintended consequences?"

    There's been so many that I've lost count. The current leaders in our House and Senate leave much to be desired.

    • Sarah

      Oh please, you were the one that believed the minimum wage bill OT issues were all part of their master plan of some sort now you're saying they weren't? You can't make up your mind most of the time on what you believe.

      I'm glad they passed the water bill. It was a big issue that struck 300,000 people. If they took the time to make it perfect, if would never have passed in one legislative session.

      Just fix it and move on. Stop being a cry baby.

      • Aaron

        You are correct Sarah. I was giving them credit for intelligence they did not possess. Seems their mistake was due to incompetence.

        My bad.

  • sammy

    This entire legislative session was a circus from the beginning. Please, someone, bring back Rick Thompson.

  • Joe

    This a direct result of poor leadership allowing multiple bills to circulate and a priority not on water safety, but news and tv coverage to be used during campaigns.

    Disgusting!

  • RogerD

    I guess they needed to pass the bill in order to find out what was in the bill. Where have we heard that one before???

    • Max

      Spot on Roger...well said...not just poor leadership...how about no leadership in the House...a sixth grader could have realized all 40,000 tanks in WV should not have been included in this legislation.