Governor Tomblin is a cautious, conservative leader.  His style of listening to all sides and considering the options before reaching a decision has served him well over the years.

But one can be too deliberate.  Sometimes prompt action is required, when the Governor needs to override his polite, consensus building judiciousness and exert more of his influence as the state’s chief executive.

The current conundrum with the state’s new tank law is one of those times.

Earlier this year the Governor appropriately proposed, and the Legislature passed, a bill designed to prevent another Freedom Industries. The chemical spill from a decrepit storage tank along the Elk River fouled the drinking water for up to 300,000 people and demonstrated the vulnerability of our water supplies.

The House of Delegates beefed up the version proposed by the Governor and passed by the Senate, but the House went too far.  The legislation created what many believe was an unintended consequence of holding smaller tanks in remote areas that store water, brine or oil to roughly the same standard as giant chemical tanks near water supply intakes.

The state’s small oil and gas drillers, who own and operate perhaps as many as 40,000 storage tanks, say it’s impossible for them to comply with the new regulations.  There aren’t enough certified engineers to complete required inspections by the Jan. 1, 2015 deadline. Also, many of the small wells are only marginally profitable so paying $1,000 to $2,000 per tank inspection will put some operators out of business.

State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman believes the operators have a point, but he can only do so much to accommodate them. The deadlines in the law for inspection (by Jan. 1st) and registration (by Oct. 1st) cannot be waived.  Huffman also knows it’s impractical for operators to conduct inspections when his office is still several months away from finalizing the rules.

Lawmaker options include a special session as soon as possible, an exemption for a whole class of businesses from the law, delaying the inspection deadline and leaving the law the way it is.

Meanwhile, the operators are twisting in the wind, uncertain whether they should be making every effort to comply with the logistically impossible and potentially financially devastating regulation or try to pressure their elected representatives into a special session.

It is possible Tomblin is miffed, believing the House created the problem by changing his bill.  It’s also possible the ever-circumspect Tomblin does not want to be associated with the public grousing of a special session to reopen and rework the signature legislation of the 2014 session, especially if it’s before the election.

The Governor’s staff and DEP are trying to work out details of a solution, but this could get thorny.   It’s a complicated law with many stakeholders.  Getting agreement, as well as a workable law, won’t be easy.

Feminist Faye Wattleton said, “The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.”  The confusion and controversy over the tank law have created some turbulent seas.  The legislation needs important tweaks, while ensuring that our water supplies are protected.

Take charge, Governor.

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Comments

  • Ken Long

    Hoppy: you have been trying to say the senate is mad at the house and vice versa and now are pushing the Governor is mad at the house.

    You even went so far, in pushing your theory, to misstate facts to make it sound believable.

    The governor had a bill that was rolled into Senator Unger's bill. The Governor didn't even keep his own bill so if there was a fight, wouldn't it have started there?

    I think the truth is there was a lot to this bill to try to keep our drinking water safe. That is not a bad thing. Being "miffed" at this point is ridiculous when these people work together on so many things, they are used to disagreeing and getting over it.

    Stop trying to make a soap opera out of everything. I know you have to be controversial to sell but don't insert misleading facts to do it. It hurts your credibility.

    I state that after reading this and being disappointed in what you did in the article. You're better than that!

  • BU Guy

    As much money being spent on these gas drilling sites couple thousand dollars not going to bankrupt them. Also they need inspected if they leak will get into the water supply as runoff somewhere.

    • Chris

      Those new sites probably can afford it. We are talking about the tens of thousands of old shallow wells in the state that might only have a couple thousand dollars of net income a year. This law would make those wells un-economical to operate and force the small local gas well operators out of business. Plus it is not possible for the DEP to inspect 40,000 tanks a year anyway.

  • ViennaGuy

    And this is exactly what happens when you rush something through in an effort to look like you are "doing something." Who cares about the details; it's all about the media optics.

    This is all the Legislature's fault. Call them back into session and tell them to FIX IT.

    • Clean Water

      Yeah it is the legislatures fault an industry spilled chemicals into the water system and the public wanted something done about it.

      Industry is golden and it is all the legislature's fault.

      • Aaron

        The Governor proposed an adequate bill on Jan 20th that would have addressed the issue but Miley shot the legislation down as not doing enough. The Governors bill was applicable to "(1) industrial above ground storage tanks located within a zone of critical
        concern (“ZCC”) and (2) state-wide public water systems and contained "Sixteen exemptions, including non-commercial farm or residential tanks (under a certain capacity), septic tanks, propane tanks, mobile tanks, certain tanks regulated pursuant to other state or federal statutes, etc. ii. Location in a zone of critical concern; iii. Containment of a certain volume of regulated material.

        Given the Governor's proposed bill, why was Miley's needed?

        • Aaron

          Here are the links from Metro news. I post them separate as to not get my comment held for moderation.

          http://wvmetronews.com/2014/01/20/governor-details-proposed-above-ground-storage-tank-legislation/

          That article contains a link to the Governors proposed bill.

      • ViennaGuy

        Clean Water: try again. I did not absolve industry of the January chemical spill.

  • WV Common Tater

    Where is the Legislature Leadership in all this? They created the problem and want someone else to solve it for them. The quickest solution is for the small operators to shut down now, cut off the free gas and monthly payments to the land owners, and put their employees on the labor market. Then, let the chips fall.

  • Jackie hatfield

    Bet you there is federal EPA money involved, the state has been bought out just like 52 percent of America had!!

  • Richard

    The problem with this law is it punishes a industry that was never a problem and is already highly regulated. And when you talk about marginal production the average oil production is just 2 barrels oil per week per well and I think the number of 40000 tanks is a low number as Ritchie county has over 10000 oil and gas well in it and the vast majority is over 30 years old. These wells should be exempt from this law.

  • Walsingham

    I don't think the bill should be changed. It's small, fly-by-night, companies that are the problem and require more oversight. Trying not to upset the gas and chemical industry makes sense economically, until you can't make formula for your baby or give your child a bath with the tap water.

    • Aaron H

      Please don't comment on something you clearly don't understand.
      Uninformed is our nations biggest problem.

  • Hoppity Hippity

    Asking our governor to lead is like asking the judiciary in Kanawha County to act professionally, rich in integrity and in accordance with the law. It's not gonna happen in our lifetime.

  • Reality

    This governor couldn't lead a Cub Scout pack. Good luch with that request. Lol.

  • Hop'sBM

    Hoppy could opine about the effects of prune juice on any politician and the same five posters would collaborate in an otherwise meaningless discussion just to hear themselves.

    • Aaron

      I read every one of these stories and ocassionally comment here and there and I have no idea what you are talking about BM. Which posters are you referencing that like to here themselves. I have turned my speaker up as far as they will go, put in headphones and even tried to install outside speakers and I still hear nothing.

      • Hop'sBM

        Trite

      • Hop'sHip

        Aaron, he was obviously talking about you. I bet you chose that name so that in class when they had you speak in alphabetical order, you were always first. You write so much here that I see they even have you covering news stories. I was wondering who Aaron Payne was since Hoppy doesn't include him as one of "our people." How many Aarons could there be in one small state?

        • Aaron

          Aaron is an anglicised Hebrew masculine given name.[1] Its English form is derived from the Hebrew name "Aharon" (אהרן) which is most likely of Ancient Egyptian origin from "aha rw" meaning "warrior lion",

          or from Aaru, the Egyptian heaven ruled by Osiris,

          According to other theories, the name could be derived from various Hebrew roots meaning "high mountain", "mountain of strength", "exalted", or "enlightened", or "bearer of martyrs".

          Aaron was also the older brother of Moses and gained a name for eloquent and persuasive speech, so that when the time came for the demand upon Pharaoh to release Israel from captivity, Aaron became his brother's "prophet" to Pharaoh. (Exodus 7:1)

          Consider that your lesson for the week Hip.

          You are most welcome.

          • Aaron

            Just say it with a smile please!!!

          • Aaron

            Exalted one is fine.

          • Hop'sHip

            Thanks for the lesson, can I just call you "warrior lion"? I learned a lot. Here I thought Aaron was a Native American name meaning "he who knows all, yet remains humble."

      • Miner 49er

        Occasionally comment. You write a novel on here just about every day.

        • Aaron

          Thank you for noticing and following...your support is greatly appreciated. : )

        • Hop'sHip

          Maybe we should make this like Twitter and limit the number of characters you can

          • Monty Burns

            +10

    • Hop'sHip

      I apologize for not measuring up to your obvious high standards. I'll try better next time. I have some very strong opinions on prune juice!

      • Hop'sBM

        Apology accepted. Now move along kid, you're bothering me.

        • Hop'sHip

          OK, but I must say you sound an awful lot like someone else who posts here frequently, and I enjoy bothering him because he seems rather detestable. But I did enjoy be called "kid." That doesn't happen much any more.

      • Monty Burns

        +1

      • The bookman

        At least BM was able to produce something this morning, albeit not as substantive as he/she would have liked given the time commitment. There's always Monday, and at least they will have the weekend to work it out.

        • Hop'sBM

          It appears two of the five "raging" idiots missed their "Q" and forgot to report back in--- and I aint talk'n 'bout that guy that deserves "Lynched" nor the other that always post "L8"

          • The bookman

            It appears you need more than a few days to cure what ails you. If you have something to say , then have at it. If not, then sit in the throne and shut tfu.

        • Hop'sHip

          Bookie: Sorry, but I don't want to collaborate with you. People will talk. Now excuse me while I go over to the news side and engage in a meaningful discussion as to how we should torture the latest person arrested in the state.

  • Raging Moderate

    Hoppy has done a good job outlining the problems and has set forth some potential solutions.

    I agree with the bookman. Delay action until the regular session and give everybody a little breathing room. Hope there is not another spill in the meantime. I just don't think you can get all this done under pressure. I don't think it's an unsolvable problem, but between the pressures and costs of a special session and the looming elections, those solutions need time for adjustments. As Lincoln said, "The bottom is out if the boat", and grousing about how bad the bill is is not going to put it back in again.

  • CaptainQ

    You want leadership? From THIS Governor?

    Good luck with that, Hoppy!

  • Aaron

    We hear of "unintended consequences" regarding bills that came out of the session that were messed up but the ramifications were unknown. When the Governor made his proposal in January and then Miley took the bill and added to it, there were warnings of ramifications of such a bill. Despite those warnings, the House rammed their bill through anyhow and what we have is a result. How many unintended consequences added up does it take to convince legislators that if Democrats do retain a majority in the House, they need to change leadership as the current group appears to be incompetent?

    • liberty4all

      1. Despite any ramifications which may have been forecast, NOBODY voted against it, the governor signed it, and everyone celebrated the numerous achievements in the bill. If you were forecasting doom and gloom in your comments back then, I apologize for not remembering.

      2. If your definition of a bill being "rammed" through includes numerous critics complaining how long it was taking to pass, holding hearings and getting input from numerous sources, running the bill through several committees, unanimously approving it in both the Senate and House, and having the Governor sign it, then yes, this bill was rammed through.

      3. Not sure how you constantly place the blame all at the feet of Miley (who appears to be supported by industry leaders in this area both large and small and who brought the problem to the attention of the Governor in July). Again, the bill, like most "major pieces of legislation", passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (in this case unanimous - I think even Del. Raines might have made an appearance to vote for it but would have to double check that). I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but seems to me if there were dissenters in either party or those who would have handled matters differently, they sure didn't say so in March with their vote.

      4. Your posts often imply that there are numerous pieces of legislation containing "unintended consequences". Even granting you the juvenile sentencing legislation (which I am still not convinced had unintended consequences versus consequences as a result of judicial interpretation), I can name two others. This tank law and the increase in the minimum wage. You didn't even believe the minimum wage legislation was unintended (instead all attributable to some liberal plot). It got fixed (missed your posts fessing up to being wrong by the way). So at most we are talking about 3 pieces of legislation? If there are more please let me know. Out of all the legislation which is passed and considered by part time legislators in a very short 60 day window, I'd say their batting average ain't too bad regarding "unintended consequences".

      I think we all, myself included, should sometimes take a deep breath, relax, and see if a problem is addressed. Perhaps the "no harm, no foul" mantra might appear to have some merit as I get older. As a Libertarian I generally feel the less the government does the better. But I don't hold them to some unrealistic standard of perfection as part time legislators. In doing so, we might lose focus of all the things people like about this legislation.

      • Aaron

        A couple of things. First I'm on my phone so I may not address everything right now but I promise I'll get back to it.

        The governor proposed a bill that would have addressed the situation and Miley immediately shot it down as he said it did not go far enough. He came up with his own bill which is pretty much what we have now. It's flawed, broken and does more damage than it does good yet who was going to vote and against the tank bill when 1/6th of the state's population was without water from an incident that gained national attention? The bill could have mandated nude bathing in the Kanawha on the first day of every future legislative session and it still would have receive overwhelming support.

        I place blame with Miley because he openly campaigned for the leadership position and one of the things he stated he would do was eliminate legislative problems. He touted his legal background as qualifications for a leadership position.

        To push bills through that contain flaws that his judiciary committee should have found is unacceptable even for a part-time legislature. That includes the minimum wage bill that took an industry representative to find. The only thing regarding the bill that I was wrong about is I did not believe the governor would correct the language of the bill. When he called for a special session to address the issues I admitted my mistake. I do so again. Happy

        None of that though is Miley's biggest failures as House Speaker. The fact that it took rainy day funds to balance the budget that did not include infrastructure funding is his biggest failures and is why I place blame on him. The session was a failed session, even with the excuse of part-time legislatures in charge.

  • The bookman

    Yet another decision whose calculus includes the November Election instead of focussing on what is the best solution. You call for leadership from the Governor, but I'm not sure demonstrating leadership, or frankly fixing the deficits in the water bill is on their mind. Self preservation is at the forefront, as the pressing issues of the state, and any action necessary to deal with them, have been framed by the election and the retention of singular party dominance.

    Do the only thing you can do at this point with any real chance of success, Governor. Delay the deadline parameters of the bill until after the next regular session. Without the specter of an election, the legislature may actually be able to conduct the people's business. Before the election would simply be asking more than they can give. Yeesh!

    • liberty4all

      Unfortunately, welcome to politics in the two party system. It is no different than proposing legislation which is designed to do nothing more than generate a "vote" which can then be used against the opposition in the fall elections. I know you are often critical of a lack of leadership in our elected officials for failing to do things irrespective of the consequences to the individual's re-election. I would hope your criticism extends to all who are guilty as charged. I also think that a debate can be had (and I am not volunteering nor indicating I disagree with you completely) that if you believe in what you are doing as an elected official, whether D or R, isn't it important to be able to ensure that you have the ability to set the agenda?

      Each party desperately craves to gain or retain power. I would go on about the polarization of politics in America and my preference for the good old days when friends didn't discuss politics or religion, but my business needs my attention. Have a good weekend everyone.

      • The bookman

        Liberty,

        I'm a conservative, not a republican. The republicans are a means to an end, and are only an improvement, not a solution in and of themselves. Yes, I do understand the deliberative approach of elected persons to retain their power, but not by inaction. Inaction seems to be the direction since January. As a result, we missed an opportunity to address the budget in a meaningful way, although Prezioso wanted to in my opinion. The easy path was taken, and we stare down the same or greater shortfall this year.

        As a fellow business owner, when we have issues that need addressed, we can't just postpone them until it is safe to deal with them. We must act and lead our business through the problem. There just doesn't seem to be the same will to lead that exists to win the seat. Good luck in your pursuits and have a great weekend as well.

  • Hop'sHip

    Aye!