U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced that they will introduce legislation aimed at preventing chemical spills in the wake of the West Virginia chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginia residents without clean water for several days. The group of Senators reached agreement on legislative language of the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act (the Act), meant to increase oversight of chemical storage facilities. The Act includes measures designed to ensure industrial chemical storage facilities are properly inspected by state officials and ensure that the industry and emergency response agencies are prepared for future chemical releases.
Announced on Senator Joe Manchin’s website, key principles of the Act include:
1. Requiring regular state inspections of above-ground chemical storage facilities,
2. Requiring industry to develop state-approved emergency response plans that meet at least federal minimum guidelines established in the Act,
3. Allowing states to recoup costs incurred from responding to emergencies, and
4. Ensuring drinking water systems have the tools and information to respond to emergencies.
The release of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol from a storage facility near a drinking water source in West Virginia highlighted the regulatory gap for chemical storage facilities. The storage facility was exempt from toxic substances testing requirements based on statutory language of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that “grandfathers” and exempts many chemicals from required hazardous analysis. In addition, aboveground chemical storage tanks at storage facilities are generally regulated at the state level so regulations very widely state to state. West Virginia did not require regular inspections of the subject storage tanks, which would be required under the proposed legislation.
Laura Barron-Lopez, Senate Dems push bill to prevent chemical spills, The Hill, January 17, 2014 http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/195854-senate-dems-to-introduce-bill-aimed-at-preventing-future-chemical
Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014, Fact Sheet, http://www.manchin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=5e753adc-e7b0-4d04-bbb8-f1b4d83a1afa&SK=69594FB391DF38843E98E1A0A92D9896
Manchin, Boxer, Rockefeller to Introduce Bill to Prevent Chemical Spills, Senator Joe Manchin Press Release, January 17, 2014, http://www.manchin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=c6994524-12a1-412c-b958-b5b9401bf680
Toxic Substances Control Act, Amended December 31, 2002 (http://www.epw.senate.gov/tsca.pdf)