CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two weeks ago, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held a news conference to announce his legislative response to the Elk River chemical leak. The governor unveiled proposed legislation aimed at creating a new regulatory program for aboveground chemical storage tanks.
"This proposed legislation includes reasonable, commonsense provisions to regulate aboveground storage tanks across the state, including those located in areas of critical concern near our public water supply and distribution systems," the governor said at the Jan. 20 news conference.
A day earlier, a select group of business lawyers and industry lobbyists met with the governor's staff and officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection to go over the governor's bill.
"See everyone there and please be prepared to discuss the bill section by section," Jason Pizatella wrote in an email message announcing the meeting.
Pizatella called the event a meeting "with the stakeholders."
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce was invited. So were the Oil and Gas Association and the Coal Association. Trade associations representing grocers, manufacturers, trucking firms and energy companies were included, according to the Governor's Office.
But the chief lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council -- the environmental community's umbrella lobby group at the Capitol -- said that his organization wasn't included in the governor's meeting.
"Neither I nor anyone else I know of in the environmental community knew about that meeting," Garvin said Monday. "You telling me about it is the first I've heard about that meeting."
Asked what discussions the environmental council had about the governor's bill prior to its unveiling at that news conference, Garvin said, "There were none."
Garvin said that environmental group lobbyists weren't asked by the Governor's Office for their input as the bill was developed, and had only brief, informal discussions with DEP officials prior to the legislation being introduced.
"I've had some just offhand discussions with DEP," Garvin said. "Other than that, we really weren't given an opportunity to just sit down and tell the DEP or the governor what we thought."
Pizatella's announcement of the "stakeholders" meeting, held at the state Lottery Commission building on Pennsylvania Avenue on a Sunday afternoon, was among the records released by the Governor's Office in response to a Freedom of Information Act request about the chemical tank legislation.
Also included were email messages in which several prominent industry lawyers and lobbyists offered suggestions for the governor's legislation -- before the bill was finalized Jan. 20 or introduced Jan. 22.
Peter Markham, Tomblin's general counsel, said late last week that administration lawyers and a variety of officials from the DEP wrote the governor's proposal.
"There were a lot of cooks in this kitchen," Markham said.
Among those with input on a draft of the governor's bill was Markham's predecessor as Tomblin's general counsel, Charleston lawyer Kurt Dettinger, who is now with the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson.
"I reviewed it and offered some comments on it," Dettinger said. "As you digest a big piece of legislation, you ask questions and you provide feedback you are asked to provide."