A bill that would require inspections and cleanup plans for chemical storage tanks, over the objection of industry, could be debated in the U.S. Senate as soon as this week. The measure was prompted by a West Virginia spill that tainted drinking water.
Industry representatives at a hearing of a Senate panel on Tuesday urged lawmakers to go slow on writing new rules. Lawmakers used the hearing to criticize the company responsible for the spill, Freedom Industries Inc., and fault the response of federal regulators to the Jan. 9 accident.
“It is clear that we cannot afford to leave important opportunities to prevent chemical disasters on the shelf,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
The Congress is moving quickly after a chemical used to process coal leaked from a Freedom Industries tank less than 2 miles from a water intake for West Virginia’s capital, Charleston. The water company ordered its 300,000 customers to stop using the water, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection a week after the spill.
The spilled chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or crude MCHM, is exempt from testing under laws for toxic substances because the materials were already in use when the law took effect.
A House panel separately discussed updating the toxics law on Tuesday.
The Senate bill would require state inspections of aboveground storage tanks every five years. Companies using the chemicals would need to write cleanup plans that are filed with states.