The Times West Virginian

Opinion

May 6, 2014

State DEP must include public opinion in SB 373

West Virginia lawmakers spent many hours during the past winter’s session working on a new law that aims to prevent the kind of chemical leak in January that interrupted water service for several days in a nine-county area in and around Charleston.

Senate Bill 373 laid out the broad parameters of regulating above-ground chemical storage tanks. But there remains a long way to go before the new law goes into effect, including establishing specific rules that will eventually go back to the Legislature for consideration and possible approval.

Saying it realizes the importance of this legislation and its task ahead of fleshing out the law, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection is taking what it calls unusual steps to get interested parties involved from the ground up. That sounds like a good idea.

Toward that end, the agency is seeking input from “stakeholders” before the DEP even begins putting together its draft of rules. It sent a letter earlier this month to various industry and environmental groups asking them to put in writing by May 15 what they would like to see in the rules, which are supposed to address such issues as detailed tank-integrity standards, the cost of fees for permits and any systems that may be required to detect leaks in above-ground storage tanks.

The DEP is required to have the proposed regulations ready for the Legislature to review during its 2015 session, which begins in January.

That all appears much to accomplish during the remainder of the year. But we credit the DEP for inviting interested groups to provide their suggestions, concerns and opinions at the front end.

The one concern, however, is the time allowed toward the end of the process for the general public to study closely the proposed regulations and react.

The DEP should make sure members of the general public have adequate time to express their opinions on this all-important step aimed at protecting public water supplies.

— The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch

This editorial does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Times West Virginian editorial board.

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