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Proposed rollbacks to storage tank act die in legislature

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation which would have eroded many of the protections included in the 2014 Above Ground Storage Tank Act in West Virginia has been declared dead for the session in Charleston.

The measure would have given exemptions to certain sized tanks along waterways in West Virginia, even in the “zones of critical concern.” Those are areas where the tanks were located in close proximity to a drinking water in-take source.

“These last tanks were what we are holding onto because it’s so important. We were glad to hear cooler heads prevailed and it died,” said Karan Ireland with the West Virginia Sierra Club.

The provisions in the act were crated in 2014 just days after the Freedom Industries Chemical Spill into the Elk River in Charleston. The spill left 350,000 households with no drinking water for days. Ever since, the oil and gas industry has lobbied to roll back various provisions of the legislation claiming many of the regulations were over reaching and created an obstacle to doing business in West Virginia.

“That’s a false choice,” Ireland said. “You can protect drinking water and protect public health and still do a good business,”

The legislation was passed by the House of Delegates and made it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was briefly on the committee’s agenda, but during a reshuffling of the agenda was bumped off and was never brought back up for discussion. Since the committee is done meeting for the session, the bill is dead. Ireland doubted it will stay that way.  She fully expected the measure to come up again in next year’s session.

“Educating people about what’s in these tanks, why this is so important, and what the ramifications might be if they are exempted is going to be important,” she said.

Ireland credited the overwhelming grass roots opposition to the bill as the biggest reason it ultimately failed during the session.

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