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Virginia Politics
Posted at 04:18 PM ET, 05/03/2011

McDonnell signs bill requiring improvements at Fairfax oil tank farm

Update, 4:18 p.m.: U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) has issued a statement in response to McDonnell’s action. Connolly got his start in politics as president of a civic association where residents’ home prices were impacted by the oil plume at the Pickett Road tank farm in the early 1990s.

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to bring an end to the environmental problems which have plagued the Pickett Road tank farm and endangered residents and the watershed in that area on the border of Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax. I applaud Senator Petersen and Delegate Bulova for their tenacious efforts to win approval of their legislation and convince their colleagues in the General Assembly to override Governor McDonnell’s amendments that gutted the intent of the legislation. The Governor also deserves recognition for signing the bill, even after his amendments were rejected and the legislation was returned to its original form,” Connolly said.

Original post: Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has signed a bill into law that will require a chain of aboveground oil storage tanks in Fairfax city that have experienced repeated leaks to come up to current codes.

His signature comes after he tussled with the legislature over the bill, which is designed to require new safety measures at the oil tank farm on Fairfax’s Pickett Road, the site of repeated spills, including ones that caused a massive underground oil plume discovered in the early 1990s.

That experience caused Virginia to pass new regulations for such tank farms, including rules that require double-hulled tanks to prevent oil from leaking into the soil.

But the new rules applied only to storage facilities constructed after 1992. The new law will require the Fairfax city site, jointly owned by five oil companies, to follow the same rules.

The legislation passed the General Assembly on a unanimous vote. McDonnell had recommended overhauling the bill so that it would instead direct the state’s Water Control Board to review such sites and determine what, if any, new regulations were needed.

Bill sponsors said the changes would gut the measure, and the legislature voted to reject his amendments. That meant McDonnell had to decide whether to sign the measure or veto it outright.

McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell said the governor chose to sign the measure after consulting with lawmakers and deciding that it was “the best opportunity to address the issues facing this community.”

“While the amendments he proposed would have given the agency more tools to address this and similar problems around the state, the governor had to make his decision based on the original bill presented to him,” Caldwell continued in a statement.

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax), who sponsored the legislation, praised McDonnell in a joint statement.

“Now the Pickett Road tank farm will have to meet the same safety standards as any other above-ground facility in the Commonwealth,” Petersen said. “As the requirements take effect, the owners will have two choices: come up to safety standards or shut down their business.”

“By signing this bill into law, Governor McDonnell is making a strong statement that the health and safety of our community comes first,” Bulova said. “I am grateful for his support of this effort and the efforts of the community to advocate on behalf of this important legislation.”

By  |  04:18 PM ET, 05/03/2011

 
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