U.S. Senate Committee Advances Water Protection Act

The State Journal
3 April 2014
By Mandi Cardosi

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works advanced a bill that could potentially help the rest of the country protect their drinking water.

The bill was amended in committee, where the amendment passed on a voice vote.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sponsored the bill and worked with others including U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. on the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014.

The act "amends the Safe Drinking Water Act to direct the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or each state exercising primary enforcement responsibility for public water systems to carry out a state chemical storage facility source water protection program."

Read the introduced version of the bill HERE.

It also requires a program for oversight and inspection of chemical storage facilities to "prevent the release of chemicals into the water supply in watersheds with public water systems that rely on surface water, including a covered chemical storage facility located pursuant to a source water qualify assessment."

"Covered chemical storage facility" is defined as "a facility at which a chemical is stored and the Administrator or state determines that a release from the facility poses a risk of harm to a public water system."
Manchin, although not on the committee, was in attendance when the bill was passed and will now head to the Senate floor.

"We are very grateful for this bill," Manchin said of West Virginians. "It will give every state the authority and responsibility to go check their waterways."

Manchin re-iterated that the chemical leak that occurred in the Mountain State could have happened anywhere, but with the proper regulations and legislation it could be prevented.

He said the bill will help state's go onto properties like Freedom Industries, the site of the Jan. 9 chemical spill, and find out more about the chemicals that are being stored there. As well as the chemical's effects on humans.

"It's a proud day, I think, for West Virginia," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Ca., said of advancing the bill. "People in West Virginia deserve to have their spirits lifted."

The bill will now go to the U.S. Senate floor for approval.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) also released a statement on the bill:

 "ACC supports Congressional efforts to ensure unfortunate events like the one that affected thousands of lives in West Virginia do not happen in the future. We commend Senator Manchin for his leadership on this important issue and for his commitment to continue working in a bipartisan manner to achieve sensible legislation that would strengthen public safety through enhanced regulation of chemical storage tanks. While we are still evaluating the details of today's amendment to S. 1961, we welcome the progress that has apparently been made by Senators Manchin, Boxer and Vitter to refine the bill. ACC looks forward to working with the Senate as the bill makes its way to the floor.

"We are hopeful that in addition to finding ways for states to prevent incidents like the one in West Virginia, members will also be spurred to move forward on legislation that is currently pending before the Committee to update the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). ACC strongly supports the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), compromise legislation introduced by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator David Vitter and Senator Tom Udall. With 25 bipartisan cosponsors, the CSIA requires that all chemicals in commerce undergo a safety evaluation, including 'grandfathered' chemicals; gives EPA more authority to request additional information about chemicals from manufacturers and processors; increases the transparency of information about chemicals; and enhances cooperation between state and federal regulators. We urge Committee leadership to act on the CSIA."

 The Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act would require regular state inspections of all above ground chemical storage tanks and more frequent inspections of those tanks located near drinking water sources and those tanks storing high hazard chemicals. It sets minimum federal standards that chemical tanks must meet – including construction and leak detection requirements, secondary containment standards, the development of emergency response plans, and financial responsibility requirements. Additionally, companies must inform the state, the Environmental Protection Agency, and local water systems of the chemicals they store.