As the Washington Post reported this morning, the Governor is going to submit amendments that would gut legislation sponsored by Sen. Chap Peteresen and Del. David Bulova that provide common-sense environmental protections at the "tank farm" on Pickett Road.
The legislation - which was approved unianiomously in the General Assembly - would simply require the owners of the facility and businesses that are on the "tank farm" to bring their tanks up to state code. How hard is that? It doesn't shut anyone down, doesn't prevent them from operating - it simply states that they need to come into the 21st century and have equipment that is safe. In fact, the legislation gives the companies - get this - until 2021. That means when my daughter is 20 the tanks would be up to code. Really, Governor? You want to leave in place 20th century oil tanks for that long? So much for innovation in the Commonwealth.
This legislation originated as part of a meeting convened by the Mayor and City Council last year where Chap, David, Congressman Gerry Connolly, Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova and others brainstormed ideas on ways to increase oversight of the facility and enforcement of activities that ran afowl of the law.
Many of the ideas, we found, weren't able to be implemented or even proposed because of pre-existing federal and/or state laws. However, we have been successful in other ways, including having the DEQ level penalties against the facility for infractions and most importanty, the legislation sponsored by Chap and David.
Unfortunately, the Governor and Attorney General see things differently. They are both flat-out wrong. The Governor's amendments that would strip out the original language and give more authority to the state's Water Control Board is an old Richmond trick: when you don't like a certain piece of legislation you either study it or give it to a board to deal with.
And the Attorney General's contention that this legislation is targeting one company - Citgo - is again flat-out wrong. There are multiple companies on the "tank farm," including BP. Last time I checked, BP didn't exactly have a stellar record with safety, which makes this opposition to the legislation even more puzzling since the cost to upgrade is probably pretty minimal but the bad PR they get just reinforces their cavalier attitude.
But this is beside the point. The fact is that the "tank farm" is a near and present threat to the citizens of the City and County of Fairfax. Over the last several months we have seen thousands and thousands of gallons of petroleum product spilled, Lord knows where it's going, and multiple truck crashes as 18-wheelers barrel down Pickett to take a left onto Little River Turnpike.
The General Assembly meets today for its re-convened session where they will consider the Governor's amendments. My guess is that they won't accept his amendments on the "tank farm" legislation, but then the Governor could simply veto the measure, which would be a shame.
This fight isn't over. If anything, it's bringing the City and County and all of our residents together. And that is certainly a good thing.