Nearly five months after the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill calling for inspections of all above-ground chemical storage tanks, the leader of the West Virginia House of Delegates is trying to close a barn door after he let the horses escape.
In March, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 373 in the wake of a winter disaster which caused more than 300,000 people to lose access to fresh drinking water due to a leaking chemical storage tank. SB 373 requires the registration and inspection of all above-ground storage tanks in areas of critical concern.
The state Senate worked very quickly to put SB 373 together, passing a simple bill January 28th which dealt with storage tanks near major waterways in the state, but didn't overburden industry, especially growing Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling industry.
That's where common sense ended though.
The bill moved to the House, where Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison) sent the bill through three committees, a death knell for many bills. His committees sat on the bill until March, then filled the bill, like a water balloon, with heavy-handed regulations. The Senate had already included exemptions for smaller tanks used by the oil and gas industry for storage. The House took those exemptions out, and amended the bill nearly to death, passing the behemoth March 5th. It passed the full Legislature March 8th and was signed by the Governor shortly after that.
Flash forward to July 9th. Speaker Miley, the same man who allowed SB 373 to become an obese monster, wrote a letter to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin asking for an executive order delaying the implementation of SB 373. As it stands, storage tank owners have to have their tanks registered and inspected by January 1st, 2015. That might be a problem, as there are over 40,000 storage tanks in West Virginia and not enough engineers to get the inspections done.
On top of that, smaller oil and gas operators say the registration fees will bankrupt them. Operator Dennis Xander told West Virginia MetroNews earlier this week that the $3,000 fee will cost him around $300,000 for all his tanks, most of which are small. Now Tim Miley wants to ride to the rescue? It's his fault and the fault of his leadership for turning a simple bill into a way to regulate more.
Democrats on both sides of the chamber decided to pass a flawed bill in order to appease those angry at having no water for two weeks. Tim Miley wants voters to forget that he is largely at fault for a bill that could shut down small businesses in his district and around the state. Don't let him and other Democrats get away with it in November.