Just after the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection proposed annual fees for above ground storage tank owners to fund the regulatory structure created by the Above Ground Storage Tank Act (“ASTA”), a bill was introduced on Tuesday to significantly revise the ASTA. The revisions would drastically reduce the number of above ground storage tanks that would be subject to the ASTA. Whether these revisions will be passed remains to be seen, but if the bill exits the House Judiciary Committee a heated debate will likely ensue.
Protecting Water Quality
The ASTA was the reaction of the West Virginia Legislature to protect the state’s water quality after the January 2014 chemical spill the contaminated the Charleston area water supply, making it unusable. Both the currently enacted version of the ASTA and House Bill 2574 have the same aim of protecting West Virginia’s water quality by regulating above ground storage tanks. Whether the ideology behind the versions splinter is based on the scope of what storage tanks should be in the purview of the ASTA.
The current version of the ASTA requires all stationary, atmospheric above ground storage tanks that contain more than 1,320 gallons. The ASTA then categorized the above ground storage tanks (“ASTs”) into Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 based on their capacity, a hazardous substance being stored, or location. Level 1 ASTs have the most requirements because they have the highest capacity, store a hazardous chemical, or are located in a protected area or a zone of critical concern. While Level 1 ASTs under the Act are subjected to the most scrutiny and regulation, the Act still requires registration and some level of inspection of all of the ASTs that are within the broad definition of above ground storage tank.
House Bill 2574 proposes a limited definition of above ground storage tank to include only those stationary, atmospheric ASTs that contain more than 10,000 gallons and are located within a zone of critical concern. The definition of a zone of critical concern is relatively the same between the two versions – a corridor along streams within a watershed that warrants more scrutiny because of its proximity to the public utility’s primary drinking water intake. Randy Huffman, the West Virginia Secretary of the DEP, estimated that this revision would only cover about four percent of the above ground storage tanks compared to the current Act.
Progress Versus Priority
The point of view differences between the supporters of each version comes down to the impact of regulation on business. The supporters of Bill 2574 say that the changes would eliminate double-regulation for some industries. This would prioritize the tanks that could create the most harm with a leak.
Opponents to Bill 2574 say that the revisions would gut the Act as passed last year and destroy the progress that had been made with the tank program.