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As much as we've all heard about carbon footprints, few of us know about water footprints. In addition to the regular water we associate with food and beverages, there is something called "virtual water." That's the water it actually takes to manufacture or grow something to the point where we use it, eat it, wear it or do something else with it. Check out the blog to read more.

According to a report in the Charleston Gazette, the West Virginia DEP's new "law requires all tanks to be registered with the DEP and sets up requirements for tank safety, spill prevention and response, and inspections. The initial tank safety certifications, due by Jan. 1, 2015, will be conducted under a separate rule the DEP issued to ease that process."

As chemical tank owners across West Virginia scrambled to meeting the October 1, 2014 deadline to register with state regulators, Department of Enviornmental Protection officials hosted an unusual daylong session to explain their long-term plan for implementing the new state law meant to prevent a repeat of January's Freedom Industries leak into the Elk River.

DEP officials briefed about 70 industry lobbyists, citizen activists, engineers and consultants, providing a section-by-section review of a rough draft of the agency’s 79-page rule to implement the Above Ground Storage Tank Act portions of SB 373.

The Tomblin administration released the draft version to allow for more give-and-take with the public and the regulated community before filing a formal draft for a legally required public comment period and a review by lawmakers during the 2015 regular legislative session.

“We knew the rulemaking process was going to be important,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said. “Given the interest, we made a commitment to engage stakeholders in the process.”

In writing the rule, the DEP is responding to a legislative mandate that it create a program to regulate above-ground chemical storage tanks, or ASTs. Lawmakers ordered the move after the leak of the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM from Freedom Industries, an incident that contaminated the Elk River drinking-water source for hundreds of thousands of people in Charleston and surrounding communities.

Through Wednesday — the legal deadline for registering ASTs with the DEP — agency officials said at least 46,000 registrations had been filed. They expect more to come in as various industries wrestle with an entirely new regulatory mandate.

The law requires all tanks to be registered with the DEP and sets up requirements for tank safety, spill prevention and response, and inspections. The initial tank safety certifications, due by Jan. 1, 2015, will be conducted under a separate rule the DEP issued to ease that process. The rough draft discussed at Wednesday’s meeting will cover subsequent compliance and enforcement after it’s finalized and approved by lawmakers.

SB 373’s final requirements are broader than those originally proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, but the governor has turned down demands from industry and legislative leaders to revisit the scope of the law in a special session. Also, the DEP’s additional public involvement sessions are a contrast to an industry-only “stakeholders” meeting the governor’s staff held while finalizing its version of the tank bill.

Presentations by DEP staffers at Wednesday’s meeting pinpointed lesser-noticed but interesting provisions of the new regulatory program. One part of the DEP’s rule would prohibit delivery companies from filling any above-ground storage tanks that haven’t received proper state certifications. Another would require companies that have spills that contaminate drinking-water supplies to provide temporary — in some cases, even permanent — replacement drinking water.

Numerous industry officials pressed the DEP to provide some estimate of the per-tank registration fees the agency will require tank owners to pay. However, DEP officials said they weren’t ready to do that before the final registration numbers are in. Under the law, the DEP is supposed to set the fees at a level high enough to “defray” the costs of enforcing the new law.

Huffman cautioned those attending Wednesday’s meeting that the purpose of the gathering wasn’t to revisit arguments about what was included in the legislation, saying the law is “chiseled in stone,” at least until the Legislature meets again in January.

“We can’t fix what you think is wrong in 373,” Huffman said. “That’s a discussion for another day.”

Still, some officials from the coal industry and the oil and gas industry continued to question whether the law should even apply to their operations.

Ben Beakes, a lobbyist for Alpha Natural Resources, said the coal industry is already subject to frequent inspections and a wide variety of regulations, and wondered why the additional above-ground storage tank rule should be applied to mining.

“Our basic concern is that it really does create a completely different regulatory program,” Beakes said. “I wish I could point to a specific thing, but it’s more of a foundational issue.”

Some oil and gas officials raised similar concerns, adding that their operations are “unique” and might not fit neatly into a general rule of the type the DEP proposed. For example, they noted that requirements for the siting of new storage tanks include mandates for spacing between tanks that would be hard to comply with at gas operations, where tanks are often squeezed close together.

For months, some oil and gas industry officials — with strong support from House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison — argued for a broad exemption for the industry’s tanks, which they said are often located in isolated areas, far from any public drinking-water sources.

Scott Mandirola, director of the DEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management, said Wednesday the preliminary numbers show that 40 percent of the above-ground storage tanks located in “zones of critical concern” near drinking water intakes are related, in one way or another, to the oil and gas industry.

Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said he wasn’t really surprised by the figures. DeMarco said one possibility is that many of the tanks in question are located at natural gas compressor stations. Others also might be located near drinking water intakes in gas-producing communities along the Ohio River, DeMarco said.

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said the DEP’s preliminary numbers show why it’s important that SB 373 be applied to the state’s booming oil and gas industry.

“They are positioned to be a significant threat to our water supplies,” Rosser said. “Blanket exemptions are dangerous routes to take.”

DEP officials repeatedly asked industry and citizen representatives to provide alternative language, saying they wanted specific input that would help them make their rule better.

“We’re not experts in the tank business,” Huffman said. “Regulating above-ground storage tanks is not something we have a long history of doing.”

Mandirola said the DEP has tried to write a rule that will regulate different types of tanks based on the risks they pose, considering their location, their size and their contents.

Huffman said his instructions from the governor were to put the safety of public drinking water first.

“When we have an opportunity to make a policy call one way or the other, I go back to the governor’s stated objective,” he said, “which is to protect public drinking water.”

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