Energy, Environment, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House bill to reduce inspections of oil and gas brine tanks near drinking water intakes gets tabled in Senate Energy

MORGANTOWN – A House oil and gas bill that has caused some concern in the environmental community met its apparent end it Senate Energy on Tuesday.

HB 2598 intended to exclude from the Aboveground Storage Tank Act’s inspection requirements tanks having a capacity of 210 barrels (8,820 gallons) or less, containing brine water or other fluids produced in connection with oil and gas production activities within a zone of critical concern — within five hours upstream of a drinking water intake.

After hearing witnesses for and against the bill, Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, moved to table it. In a voice vote with no audible votes against, the motion succeeded and the bill will not advance to the Senate floor.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, told the senators that small and marginal oil and gas producers who operate conventional vertical wells face financial difficulties with current inspection processes.

Current law requires the producer to self-inspect each tank once a year for two years; in the third year the producer must hire a licensed engineer to do the inspection. The bill proposed to make every inspection a self-inspection.

Current law also requires inspection of secondary containment every two weeks. The bill proposed to make it monthly.

Kelly said the tanks contain mostly brine water and the Division of Highways uses the water for winter ice treatment.

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition said the bill would reduce protection of drinking water supplies. Along with brine the water can contain crude oil and carcinogens such as benzene and toluene.

“They pose that heightened threat to our public drinking water supplies,” she said.

Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Scott Mandirola said there are 766 tanks. Overall, 12.9% contain brine, 35.3% have brine plus oil and gas, 48.9% have crude oil and 2.7% have natural gas condensate.

There have been some leaks, he said, and some of those have reached surface water but he knows of none that have reached drinking water.

DEP objected to the bill’s initial version, he said, because it proposed to totally deregulate the tanks. DEP worked out this compromise to maintain inspections.

Because many of them are in the “middle of nowhere,” and producers are on site monthly, DEP agreed to the monthly secondary containment inspections. And because DEP inspectors are on site once every three years, it agreed to eliminate the inspections by engineers.

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