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.”