*Update 2: Below is an e-mail about the hearing we sent out the morning of March 5. It includes new talking points.
Update 3: Also see: Necessary Improvements to SB 423 Aboveground Storage Tank Act
Update 4: Easiest ask – Discard SB 423. Why is this bill so bad we want it defeated? Read on.
Legislation making its way through the Statehouse would ease West Virginia’s new oversight of aboveground chemical storage tanks by cutting back on state inspections, allowing lesser safety standards for some tanks, and blocking public access to some information about hazardous materials stored near drinking water intakes.
The bill (SB 423) would essentially exempt more than 36,000 aboveground storage tanks around the state from new safety requirements that lawmakers approved unanimously after last year’s Freedom Industries leak, according to state officials and outside experts who have reviewed the legislation and the state’s existing inventory of about 48,000 tanks.
We urgently need water drinkers to come out to a public hearing on this bill set for Friday, March 6 at 8:30 a.m. in the WV House Chamber. Either come to comment or come to support those who are commenting for clean water.
One point to make during Friday’s public hearing: As we all know, coal mining activities and shale gas production and waste “disposal” activities impact water. Many people living in rural areas in WV depend on groundwater for all their water uses. Any bill that is passed covering aboveground storage tanks should include monitoring and inspections of tanks that could threaten drinking water wells in rural areas. Tanks that are used for storing potable water would be an exception, of course.
More details and talking points here and more details coming, so check back.
*Update 2: E-mail sent on March 5 to folks in our database:
Subject: Defend Our Water: Legislators Poised to Backslide on Tank Bill, Come to Hearing or Comment
Dear OVEC members and supporters,
We wanted to be certain you know that legislators are taking comments on SB 423, a bill that would roll back water protections we gained after the Freedom Industries MCHM / Elk River drinking water disaster last year.
People jammed the halls of the Statehouse last year; that’s how we won the water protections that are now under attack. The legislators need to hear from all of us again this year.
If you can safely make it, please come to the public hearing on SB 423 on Friday, March 6 at 8:30 a.m. in the House Chamber at the WV State Capitol.
Please come to either speak, or support those speaking for clean water. Please ask friends and family to join you in commenting.
If you can’t make it to the hearing, please be sure to either e-mail and call House Judiciary members with your message. Find their contact info here. (Note that at the bottom of this page there’s a listing of all the members’ e-mail that you can copy and paste into the “To” field of an e-mail, so you don’t have to e-mail them one at a time.)
In this action alert, West Virginia Rivers Coalition has compiled what you need to know to either speak at the hearing or submit your comments via e-mail.
OVEC has a point to add to those you’ll find at the link above. As we all know, coal mining activities and shale gas production and waste “disposal” activities impact water. Many people living in rural areas in WV depend on groundwater for all their water uses. Any bill that is passed covering aboveground storage tanks should include monitoring and inspections of tanks that could threaten drinking water wells in rural areas. Tanks that are used for storing potable water would be an exception, of course.
There’s also a provision of the bill, “§22-30-14. Public access to information,” that perhaps would be more accurately called “Jailing Those Who Tell the Public What’s in Those Tanks.” We’ll give this another read, but this sounds strange to us. What do you think?
Speak up — for our health, for our water!
P.S. If you need a little good news — news which illustrates the power of working together to pressure institutions — to fuel your commenting, then maybe this news from our friends at EQAT (organizer Dustin White works closely with EQAT) will fit the bill: PNC Bank Will Cease Investments in Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
P.S.S. Here are some more talking points you may want to consider for your comments:
1) We should give the law that was passed last year time to go into full effect. Because of the bold action of the 2014 legislature, we finally know where all the storage tanks in the state are, what they hold, and the condition they are in. This part of the law has worked well, so let’s not change the rest of the it unless problems appear.
2) SB 423 does not include the Department of Environmental Protection’s risk-based rule that would allow regulation of above-ground storage tanks to begin immediately. This rule divides tanks into three levels, with stronger regulation of tanks that present the highest risk. It was written with input from both the public and industry and if not included in SB423, it will take up to a year for full regulation to go into effect.
3) SB 423 rolls back inspection, Spill Prevention and Response Plan, and permit requirements. One of the failures that led to the Freedom Industries chemical leak was lack of oversight and accountability. The law passed in 2014 had strong processes that should not be removed or lessened.
4) SB 423 restricts access to information about above-ground storage tank location and contents. This information is vital to water utilities, emergency response teams, communities, and individuals for public health and safety and should be fully available.