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Longer road for spill bill in W.Va. House

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia House of Delegates is paving a long legislative road for new regulations on aboveground storage tanks.

But Speaker Tim Miley says his chamber isn't stalling the chemical spill-inspired bill.

Miley, D-Harrison, has given the bill three committee stops. Often, assigning a bill many committees shows leadership isn't seriously considering it.

Miley said Senate Bill 373 could take longer in the House, where he plans to take a "deliberative" approach.

The 60-day legislative session concludes March 8.

"I don't play games," Miley said. "If there's a bill that the House is not going to consider, we don't need to triple-reference it to get the message out."

Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, has defended his chamber's quicker pace on his storage bill, saying the public demands immediate action to prevent future disasters. The Jan. 9 chemical spill at Freedom Industries contaminated 300,000 people's water for days, rendering it usable only for flushing toilets and putting out fires.

Next week, the House will start working on the bill, which spells out new inspections and registrations for many aboveground containers that hold fluids -- especially ones near water supplies.

The Senate took 12 days to pass the bill from its introduction. No one voted against the bill, but some senators remarked that they would work on it as it navigates the House.

Miley thinks a public hearing in the House chamber Monday evening will provide more insight. Several public meetings have already taken place after the spill.

"It's important that we listen to members of the public and what their concerns are and not just rush a bill without considering the public's thoughts and sentiments," Miley said Thursday.

Miley said the manufacturing industry is concerned about putting more regulations on mobile tanks on railcars and tanker trucks. Since the mobile containers are moving in and out of West Virginia, many already face regulations in other states.

"Our whole goal is making sure that we get out a good piece of legislation that is not the result of overreacting," Miley said.

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