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A rollback of legislation adopted in response to the 2014 Freedom Industries spill that contaminated the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people in the Kanawha Valley and surrounding communities has been reintroduced in the House of Delegates.

House Bill 2598 would remove tanks containing 210 barrels or less of “brine water or other fluids produced in connection with hydrocarbon production activities” in zones of critical concern from regulation under the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, which requires an inventory and registration of such tanks and defines zones of critical concern as corridors along streams within a watershed that need close scrutiny because of a nearby surface-water intake point and its susceptibility to potential contaminants.

The bill is identical to last session’s House Bill 4079, which stalled in the Energy and Manufacturing Committee, and follows multiple previous attempts to make the law more industry-friendly.

As with House Bill 4079, the lead sponsor for House Bill 2598 is Delegate John R. Kelly, R-Wood, and the bill has drawn 10 other sponsors, all Republicans, including House Energy and Manufacturing Committee Chairman Bill Anderson, also of Wood County. Kelly is the committee’s vice chair.

West Virginia Rivers Coalition Executive Director Angie Rosser has said for months that stopping the bill would be a top priority for her environmentalist group this legislative session, saying the measure would endanger drinking water quality throughout the state.

Rosser’s fear is that leaks or spills from oil and gas waste tanks may impact public water systems across West Virginia.

“The fact that we’re here in 2021 with the Legislature exempting tanks that are situated closest to drinking water supplies just flies in the face of everything we’ve learned from our own experiences with the drinking water crisis,” Rosser said.

Charlie Burd, executive director of the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia, has voiced support for a rollback like House Bill 2598, saying that the regulation on the category of tanks that the bill would exempt from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act is too burdensome.

Reach Mike Tony at mtony@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1236 or follow

@Mike__Tony on Twitter.

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