- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia panel on Monday suggested a new tax credit, $12.2 million in extra funding and other tweaks to a law that responded to a January chemical spill.

The Public Water Supply System Study Commission’s 47-page report also says it’s too soon to assess certain aspects of the law. State legislators passed the law in March and it took effect in June, but some parts haven’t been implemented.

The law requires new reporting and precautionary measures to safeguard public water supplies from contamination. It also sets up a regulatory program for aboveground storage tanks.

The $12.2 million in recommended funding over three years would help utilities complete more intensive plans to protect their water supplies.

The tax credit would reward landowners who use land for water protection. Landowners would be eligible for an income tax credit that equals the value of the land they’re protecting. The credits would be transferrable, letting landowners benefit financially immediately.



Lawmakers could consider the additional money and tax credit in the upcoming 60-day legislative session, which starts Jan. 14. Republican leaders, who will be in the majority for the first time in more than eight decades, want to take a second look at parts of the wide-spanning law this session, particularly which types of tanks will need inspections. Some Democrats agree.

The 12-member commission spelled out other suggestions, including recommending that utilities know about hazardous materials transported by them on trains, trucks and barges.

The reforms respond to the January spill that tainted 300,000 people’s water for days. A tank leaked chemicals into the Elk River, which West Virginia American Water uses for the region’s water supply.

The group has to produce reports on the law’s effectiveness every December.

The new state law requires taking another look at federal Chemical Safety Board’s suggestions to prevent chemical disasters. But the report says the commission is still studying the recommendations and working with citizen groups on that issue. It plans to have more information in the summer of 2015.

A 2008 Bayer CropScience explosion that killed two workers and injured eight others prompted the recommendations, but West Virginia officials have never adopted them.

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