CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) said he and other legislative leaders will meet with representatives of smaller oil and gas operators during next week’s legislative interim meetings in Harrison County to talk about possible changes to the Above Ground Storage Act.
Kessler said the Act, which legislators passed earlier this year in response to the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical spill on the Elk River, was fundamentally about two things: “Where their tanks are and what’s in them. Number two is the important thing, what’s in them,” he said.
The smaller oil and gas operators, though, have said meeting the mandates of SB 373 — which requires registrations of above ground storage tanks by Oct. 1 and certified inspections of those registered tanks before Jan. 1 — would cost too much and potentially put them out of business.
They’re looking for exemptions.
On Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Kessler said he was not opposed to a possible Special Session for lawmakers before the end of the year to address those cost concerns once he sees a formal proposal on changes to the law from the Independent Oil and Gas Association.
For now, he said such changes are in the consideration phase.
“I don’t want folks to have to spend $2,000 to go out and tell us that they’ve got a tank full of water out on a hill that’s two miles away from anything and anybody,” Kessler said.
His advice to tank owners, in the short term, is to move forward with the registrations. Any possible exemptions from required certifications could be determined later.
“Tell us what it is, what’s in it, and then we can make a tiered-type of requirement,” he said of one possibility. “You can register them, tell us what’s in them and then the level of inspection requirement and government regulation depends upon both their proximity to a water source and the material in them.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection has not yet finalized the inspection protocols for the certifications that are required by the New Year. Kessler said that is another part of the Above Ground Storage Act that lawmakers may have to revisit later this year.
Legislators are going on the road for August interim meetings. They’ll be meeting in Bridgeport beginning next Monday.