CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and legislative leaders were close to an agreement late Tuesday on a special session next month to address problems with the tank law, but that was before the administration met with environmental groups.

Sources say the tentative plans for a special session to coincide with next month’s interim committee meetings in Charleston are now on hold while Tomblin searches for an administrative solution to the confusion and controversy over the new law.

Some lawmakers have been urging a special session to make changes in the landmark water protection bill passed earlier this year in response to the chemical leak at Freedom Industries on the Elk River in Charleston.  Representatives of small oil and gas producers claim key provisions of the law are impractical and expensive.

Industry representatives complain they can’t meet the deadline because there are not enough inspectors to review an estimated 40,000 tanks.  They also argue that smaller tanks that contain water, brine or oil should not be subject to the same rigorous standards as larger tanks near water supplies that contain dangerous chemicals.

Sources say representatives from environmental groups told the administration “in no uncertain terms” Tuesday about their concerns that the law designed to protect the state’s water supplies would be weakened during a special session.  That forced the administration to try to find another fix.

Tomblin’s office released a statement late in the day confirming meetings with environmental and industry groups to find a solution, but not ruling out a special session.  “A special session to address these concerns is an option; however no final decision has been made. The Governor remains committed to finding a balance between new regulations and the safety of our public water sources.”

Last January, thousands of gallons of MCHM spilled from a storage tank into the Elk River. The spill reached the water intake for West Virginia American Water Company just a mile-and-a-half downstream, fouling the water for 300,000 West Virginians in a nine-county region.
That spill brought attention to the lack of regulation of above ground storage tanks and caused lawmakers to pass a comprehensive bill aimed at protecting water supplies.
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  • Jon Hildreth

    SB373 without amending will undoubtlably put our 60 year old family oil and gas business along with our 74 employees and families out into the street. Cost estimates to comply are $2 to 5 million annually. If we fail to meet deadlines the fines are up to $5,000,000/ day or $1trillion 825 million/ year. Our wells are located South of the Marcellus "poverty line", meaning the over supply of natural gas as a result of the Marcellus boom has driven prices downward and we will sell gas far below cost for maybe years. We are for clean water and only against dual regulation. We have been under the federal SPCC spill prevention program since 1974, this has been more than adequate for the size tanks and type contents in them.

  • Jeni Burns

    I am an owner of a small catering business (Ms. Groovy's Catering) in Charleston, the co-founder of the WV Sustainable Business Council Charleston and was in attendance during the meeting with the governor and his staff. The business practices of a business related to the fossil fuel industry DID shut my business down in January because of a chemical leak at their facility Mr. Medman. $61 million is estimated to have been lost businesses it the effected area that first weekend alone. My business lost $5000 that weekend. To me that is pretty NUTS and it did kind of feel like the sky was falling. To me that is extremely radical. I am advocating for smarter regulation that would prevent that type of business loss again. I hope it is a new day in WV.

    • The bookman

      Suppose a restaurant in Huntington served food to customers that resulted in their death. It was determined that this restaurant sourced seafood from questionable sources that resulted in the tragedy. As public outrage ensued, the legislature passed a law that required a certification process that ensured such a tragedy never happened again, but the new regulations resulted in the inability of smaller operations like yours to comply and stay in business. Would that be alright with you, in the name of public safety?

  • Medman

    The end game for some of these far out environmentalists is to shutdown businesses, period. In the minds of these nuts, it is one regulation at a time until we can shut down everything related to fossil fuels and energy businesses other than wind turbines. The zealots working in the EPA and other regulatory agencies see this as a great opportunity and will push it to the limits.

    • Ronald jeremy

      Medman, did you have to drink and bath in any of the chemically tainted water? Did you have to stand in lines for fresh water? Do you suffer anxiety from the unknowns associated with the chemical you unknowingly consumed?

      • WV Common Tater

        Are you the actor?

        • a.k.a ron

          Yes, sir. I am the actor.

          While chemical exposure did result in abnormal growth of certain parts of my person that helped my carer, it also caused a perpetual bloating of my abdomen and early hair loss and abnormal body hair.

  • Shadow

    It is left unclear if the Legislature discussed this bill with the operators before they passed it. By the looks of it, the bill was written in the back room by the "Sky is Falling" crowd.

  • Karan Ireland

    Also attending meeting were representatives of citizen and business groups who are concerned about the possible effect of changes to 373 on public health and safety.

    • Fiscal Conservative

      What concerns do the people and "local business" have with specific changes being made for small tanks that basically hold nothing but brine water, some soap, and some parrafin wax? The changes would specifically be made for small oil and gas operators with lots of low volume low pressure aging wells. These current undue regulations on all above ground storage tanks will cripple those small operators as well as burden the state financially in multiple ways. Most obviously in paying subcontracted inspectors to look at all of these tanks. Next would be that most would just abandon the well, causing even more strain on an already jam packed orphan well program. But please tell me what worries you, I am curious.

      • joeyjojo

        I'll tell you what worries me about it. They want a complete exemption. They don't even want to register the tanks. How do we know what the tanks contain if they're not registered? If your margins are so tight you can't afford to fill out a 4 page form one time for each tank, you're in the wrong business.

  • jm

    While I do not agree to an extent with the environmental groups that we do need to maintain safety and keep an incident like the one in Charleston from happening........We need to be realistic and not shut all of our businesses down.

  • The bookman

    Take the necessary time to fully evaluate the bill, protect public water supplies, and not place undue burden on the industry in an effort to appease the greens. Delay the deadline until after the regular session......but continue to work on the solution so that there are no excuses come next legislative session. There isn't currently a water emergency, so let's stop acting like there is an imminent threat.

    • Swiftly

      There is an ongoing water emergency in southern West Virginia due to lack of regulation and enforcement on the coal industry.

      Why are 300,000 people across nine rural, water-rich counties all on a single municipal water intake?

      Because many of them have had their local water sources contaminated by the coal industry.

      Residents of Prenter hollow, whose water was severely contaminated by coal slurry injection, had just recently been hooked up to the Elk river water when the Freedom talk spilled.

      This emergency has been going on for years and continues to this day.

      Maybe your drinking water is clean and un-threatened and maybe this doesn't feel like an emergency to you, but for those of us who live it every day, it is.

      Now the oil and gas industry is doing the same to water supplies across the Marcellus region.

      Name me one stream or creek that isn't eventually someone's water supply. We all live downstream and the oil and gas industry, like the coal industry, needs to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.

      If these industries had acted responsibly from the beginning, we wouldn't need the regulations. Instead, they take the profits, externalize the costs, and whine when citizens fight back.

      • The bookman

        Yeah, I hear your argument loud and clear. All industry bad, more regulation good. Regulating a tank in a field in Ritchie County the same as a tank farm along the Elk somehow protects your water supply from the coal industry. Got it.

        • Peterbilt

          Bookman, I read the comments daily and I am surprised at your response.

          The commenter states that if industry had acted responsibly from the beginning, the citizenry would not have needed to push for regulation.

          You usually advocate for people to take responsibility for their actions, that's all we are asking from industry.

          This comment has revealed that you are not the critical thinker you pretend to be, but rather just another conservative hack like so many others on this board. SMH

          • The bookman

            Sir, all I can say is that I believe the failure resides with Freedom, American Water, and the DEP, in that order. Some small operator in central WV who pays a well tender to service his operation, visit every tank, mow the grass, paint the facility, and has demonstrated good stewardship of his industry and the private and public property of the rights' holders, are not responsible in any way for the events in January 2014. And they are certainly not responsible for fouling water in some mining operation in Prenter Hollow.

            I think reasonable regulation can be achieved without putting business out of business, especially when such business has been good partners and environmentally conscious. This need not deteriorate into an assault on the fossil fuel industry.

            Fix the problems intelligently by addressing the real concerns, not by taking advantage of the situation make a political statement on fossil fuel extraction. I am for personal responsibility. That is the point of my retort.

    • Fiscal Conservative

      I like it bookman, however it would only take a week of meeting with current inspectors and small operators to see and fix the problems in the law. But government is never efficient so I still like your plan better.

  • WV Common Tater

    Would WV be better off with full-time Legislators who had no other interests and time to consider legislation? Sounds like: We have to pass it to find out what is in it!

    • Woodchuck

      Yes, that and term limits.