The West Virginia legislature recently passed a bill that will significantly roll back regulation enacted by the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, which was passed last year after a chemical spill from an old aboveground storage tank contaminated the drinking water supply for more than 300,000 people in the state’s capital, Charleston. West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin has signed the bill into law.
Changes to Storage Tank Regulations
The Aboveground Storage Tank act enacted a series of regulations designed to reduce the likelihood of another storage tank leak contaminating the state’s water supply. The act required that all aboveground tanks be registered so the state could have an inventory of all its tanks. All of these tanks would have to be inspected and certified. The act also established a system that created zones of critical concern for water supplies, which means the tank is located along a waterway and 5 hours away from a drinking water intake. Any storage tank in a critical zone would have to have been inspected once a year.
Under the new bill, only tanks in a zone of critical concern will be regulated under the Aboveground Storage Tank Act; the rest will be exempt. This is about 20% of the number that was originally subject to the registration and regulation requirements of the original act. This number also includes a number of other tank categories, including, “tanks that hold more than 50,000 gallons, tanks that hold hazardous substances and tanks that are in the ‘zone of peripheral concern.’”
Whereas in the original bill, tanks in zones of critical concern had to be inspected once a year, they will now need to be inspected only once every 3 years. In addition, owners of these storage tanks can opt-out of regulation under the amended Aboveground Storage Tank Act if they can show that the tank is already being regulated under another permit.
West Virginia lawmakers in favor of the bill stated that it reduced the burden on the oil and gas industries in the state and that much of the act was unnecessary, as some of its regulations were already covered by other pre-existing permits.