West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin plans to use administrative fixes instead of a special session to adjust a law regulating above-ground storage tanks.
On Monday, Tomblin’s top environmental official spelled out a three-tiered system for how tank owners can comply with the new law. The tank requirements react to a January chemical spill that contaminated 300,000 people’s tap water for days.
Tanks that contain hazardous materials, hold 50,000 gallons or more or are situated near water supplies would face the most stringent inspection requirements.
Inspections would be less intensive for tanks that are smaller, hold less hazardous material or are farther from drinking water systems. Tanks containing water or food-oriented liquids like milk would only face inspections under current state health law, officials said.
The move responds to complaints from several industry groups, including small oil and gas operators and mobile fuel tank owners. Those containers usually hold a couple thousand gallons of fuel on a mine or construction site, said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman.
Those two categories expand the inventory of tanks subject to regulation tenfold, likely in the 50,000 to 80,000 range statewide, Huffman said.
“If there really are tens of thousands of these out there, I would be doing the state a disservice to focus the same level of effort on those tanks than the 3 to 5 percent of tanks that we know of currently in the zones of critical concern,” Huffman told a state legislative panel Monday.
The deadlines wouldn’t change in the law.
House Speaker Tim Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler have said a Jan. 1 deadline for tank inspections in the law is unattainable. Both had urged Tomblin to call a special session to change the law.
Miley previously said tank requirements would overly burden small oil and gas operators.
An Oct. 1 deadline to register most above-ground tanks in the state also still stands. Tank owners covered by the law would have until Dec. 3 to submit spill prevention and response plans.
The specifics of the tiered inspection system were expected by Tuesday.
A larger rule with additional tank regulations could come out this week or early next, Huffman said.
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