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Delegates defend triple coverage of storage tank bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of West Virginia's House of Delegates Friday dismissed allegations they're stalling a bill that would require new regulations for above-ground storage tanks.

"The people are demanding we get it right, not that we rush it through," said Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha.

The legislation was sparked by the Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated the residential water supply of 300,000 people in nine counties.

Last week, the Senate swiftly passed the legislation (SB373), but House Speaker Tim Miley has assigned three committees to review the bill. Such a move often leads to delays or puts a bill in jeopardy.

Speaking on the House floor Friday, Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, noted that the leak affected nine counties but the bill will have statewide impact. Skinner said a thorough review was necessary.

"It is not our job in the House of the people to rubber-stamp anything that comes here, whether it's from the Senate or from the executive," Skinner said. "It is very easy ... to put politics over process, but what we must do is put the people above everything else."

The House has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Poore said it's appropriate that three House committees -- Health and Human Resources, Judiciary and Finance -- review the legislation because it affects people's health, state finances and the judicial system.

Poore said House members would "break down the doors of our speaker" if they believed Miley was trying to delay or kill the legislation.

"There are no do-overs here," Poore said. "The people of West Virginia need their trust to be restored. They don't want a band-aid. They want a cure."

The 60-day legislative session doesn't end until March 8, giving the House sufficient time to review the chemical storage tank bill.

The legislation adds new inspection and registrations for above-ground tanks that hold chemicals -- especially those near waterways.

Delegate Brady Paxton, D-Putnam, said residents in his district -- including "yuppies and hippies and other people who live in nice houses" -- are no longer "clamoring" to connect their homes to public water systems.

"This water situation has been a terrible, terrible blow to this area," Paxton said. "It's obvious we've lost the trust of the public. We're going to have to all pull together to get back to a semblance of normalcy."

Senate leaders have said West Virginians are demanding immediate action on the bill to prevent future spills.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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