Marshall and Wetzel counties may go their separate ways in terms of Local Emergency Planning Committees after a vote approving of such was passed at the March 13 Marshall/Wetzel LEPC meeting.
Marshall County Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Hart stated he had asked LEPC Secretary Ray Renaud to put the matter on the meeting's agenda.
"This is something that we've been thinking about for some time now, with the amount of activity that we have in Marshall County in regards to not only gas industry but the new planning requirements that we have to meet in regards to the Emergency Management Grant Performance Program," he stated.
"We have training and exercise requirements we have to meet, planning requirements we have to meet. We've looked at that, and right now, after this legislative session, potential for more new requirements to come down the pike," said Hart.
Of those requirements, he stated, "It's actually geared toward the Charleston area from the situation in February. But at this point we kind of feel that we may be going in a different direction on what we want to do in regards to emergency planning and the activities and exercises and that. What we would like to suggest is the consideration to go ahead and let the LEPCs split so Wetzel can have one of their own and Marshall County can have one of their own. We just feel now we have a different direction to go in and we feel its in our best interests to go ahead and move forward."
He added, "We've never had a problem with the combined LEPC and we have a good relationship with Ed (Wetzel County OEM Director Sapp) and Scott (Vice chairman and Wetzel County OEM Assistant Director Kernan), and it has nothing on those lines but we have some things we feel we need to accomplish in Marshall County . . . we think we can actually on our own meet some of those requirements if we were an independent LEPC.
"I've talked to several of our agencies and getting their input, and they feel they can participate and attend more, and I've also talked to the county administrator and we have their backing, and I met with our county commissioners, and we have their backing to move forward, and I've talked to Melissa Buckley from the state emergency response commission. It would take not only a vote for the LEPC, a majority vote. But once that's done, it'd take both county commissions to do that, then it'd have to be approved by the West Virginia Emergency Response Commission, and then each county would have to submit a new by-laws and membership listings to their county commissioners. Then it'd have to move on to the state emergency response commission for approval as well.
"My only concern, and Ed's too, is with facilities such as Blue Racer, Bayer, and Axiall in regards to them having to participate in two LEPCs instead of one. So we do have that in consideration, and we have so much activity, new companies on the line, we have another couple of plants under construction in Marshall County."
Sapp stated that he agreed with Hart. "Things are the same with Wetzel," he remarked, referencing the amount of activity going on in the county. Sapp did advise that the LEPCs need to take into consideration Axiall, Bayer, and Blue Racer.
Roger Clegg, safety specialist for Blue Racer, stated the LEPC is important to the plant. "If we have to attend two meetings, we will," he noted. "It's a high priority."
Hart also remarked that Wetzel County has been supportive of Marshall County and that "we'd make ourselves available." "If Wetzel County has an LEPC meeting, and if we are needed, we are going to come, and we don't have a problem with doing that," he stated.
R.J. Feldmeier of Axiall stated that Axiall would be participating either way. "It just comes down to what you guys believe is the best response to the needs of the counties," he stated.
"We've had some large incidents, so I think we need to focus on our county," said Hart. "Anything mutual and the sharing of information would continue. We are actually fairly fortunate with the counties that surround us. We have a pretty good relationship, whether it is across the state line or the counties that border."
Wetzel County Commission President Don Mason stated he felt a motion needed to be made, seeing as both Sapp and Hart appeared to be in agreement on the matter. Therefore, he made the motion and Hart seconded it. The majority of those present agreed that the two LEPCs should be separated. Hart stated he would assist in putting together drafts of new by-laws and also the necessary documents to submit to both counties' commissioners, as well as West Virginia's Emergency Response Commission.
"I appreciate everyone's support on this recommendation," Hart stated. "We've had support from Wetzel County and appreciate the consideration and support moving into this." Feldmeier stated that both counties still had the Normac organization that they both take part in.
In another matter, Secretary Renaud gave a presentation to the LEPC regarding Fort Worth, Texas's recent "Ice-Mageddon," which occurred in December 2013. Renaud stated the emergency lasted four days and resulted in a dramatic increase in calls and increase in time to complete a call. He spoke of preparations that first responders took and how it increased efficiency. Some of these plans included hotel rooms reserved for ambulance personnel from surrounding areas, meals catered for field crews, and a lottery for mandatory overtime shifts. Furthermore, weather-related supplies were kept stocked up, as well as pain medications were reviewed and replenished for anticipated increased pain control. The use of red lights and sirens on ambulances were also limited, to enforce safety with the flow of traffic.
Also, Clegg informed the group that the Blue Racer plant would be starting a second cryo extraction plant soon. He also added that the plant officials have met with the Kent community a couple of times since September's fire at the plant. Clegg states that the plant has put a member of the Kent community on their community advisory panel.
Clegg later added to the Wetzel Chronicle that Blue Racer tests their plant alarms every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., in conjunction with Axiall's alarm testing.
In another matter, Joe Albert with the Environmental Protection Agency and Tina Long from Wetzel County Hospital were both accepted into the LEPC.