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January 31, 2014

Chemical Safety And Drinking Water Protection Act Introduced In The Senate


The January 9, 2014, chemical spill in which 7,500 gallons of a coal processing chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, stored in an above-ground tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked into the Elk River upstream from the local water utility's intake pipe serving Charleston, West Virginia, has prompted new calls for chemical safety and security legislation. For instance, concerns have been expressed about the adequacy of information regarding chemical safety and health risks, an issue that has been repeatedly raised with respect to chemicals "grandfathered" under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG™) report on the spill and call for new legislative action is available online.

In response to the spill and calls for new protections, on January 27, 2014, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced the Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014. The bill would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) by adding Part G — Protection of Surface Water from Contamination by Chemical Storage Facilities. The bill is intended to strengthen states' ability to prevent chemical spills such as that of January 9, 2014. A fact sheet regarding the bill is available online.

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) has issued a memorandum providing an overview of the new bill. The memorandum is available online.

The Senate EPW Committee has scheduled a hearing on the "Examination of the Safety and Security of Drinking Water Supplies Following the Central West Virginia Drinking Water Crisis." The hearing is scheduled for February 4, 2014, at 10:00 a.m.