Storage tanks law needs remodeling

Few pieces of complex legislation become law without containing at least a few flaws. It is no surprise, then, that a new law regulating chemical storage tanks in West Virginia may require some changes.

One potential problem was pointed out a few days ago to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley wrote the governor, telling him some representatives of the oil and gas industry worry about how the bill will affect them.

Miley, D-Harrison, asked the governor to issue an executive order delaying implementation of the section of the law in question.

Tomblin did the right thing:?He refused to comply with Miley’s request.

As the governor’s spokesman explained, Tomblin believes “an executive order should not be used to circumvent the will of the Legislature” as expressed in a measure approved by both the House and the state Senate.

In explaining himself, Tomblin may well have had to suppress a smile. That is because his comment is something of a slap at President Barack Obama, who does not hesitate to use executive orders to alter or even ignore laws approved by Congress.

Clearly, Tomblin is right.?His constitutional role is to follow the law, not make it up himself.

Still, Miley’s letter makes it clear some changes in chemical tank regulations may be needed. Lawmakers’ intent was to safeguard the public against contamination of drinking water, not make it unnecessarily tougher for any business to operate.

Complying with the statute will cost some businesses money, obviously. And in some cases, that is necessary. No one wants a repeat of the disaster earlier this year, in which a chemical spill into the Elk River at Charleston contaminated drinking water for about 300,000 West Virginians.

So, if safeguarding water supplies means extra work and expense for some businesses, so be it.

But if some rules are excessive, as Miley seems to be saying is the case, they should be stripped from the law by the Legislature, after careful consideration of the effects on public safety.