Dec 14, 2011- W.Va. Marcellus Shale Bill Passes

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

After months of public and private negotiations, the Legislature has passed a bill to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

After months of public and private negotiations, the Legislature has passed a bill to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The House of Delegates passed the bill Wednesday by a vote of 92-5.

Over the last several days, the bill has drawn increased criticism from surface owners, who say the protections offered in the bill don't go far enough.

Before the special session, industry groups voiced their opposition to $10,000 permit fees for initial wells. Those fees will stay in place as proposed.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia will soon have new rules and permit fees for gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) said Wednesday that he'll sign the regulatory legislation passed earlier in the day by lawmakers.     

A unanimous Senate sent the special session bill to Tomblin after the House of Delegates approved it 92-5.     

The Marcellus shale is considered among the world's richest natural gas reserves. The measure sets $10,000 permit fees for initial wells and $5,000 fees for each well added to that site. It requires minimum distances between wells and such things as houses and water sources. It calls for prior notices by developers to property owners and the public.     

Environmental and surface owner groups say the bill's protections fall short. Industry supported passage, but disliked multiple provisions.


A statement released by the governor's office:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, joined by Senate President Jeff Kessler and House Speaker Rick Thompson, today announced the passage of the Horizontal Well Act, relating to Marcellus Shale.


"For all West Virginians, the legislature and I have worked together to open the door to new job opportunities and reasonable regulations for Marcellus Shale development with the passage of the Horizontal Well Act," Gov. Tomblin said. "This landmark piece of legislation provides clear rules to the natural gas industry, protects our communities, surface owners and waterways while sending a clear message - West Virginia wants jobs and we will protect our rights and our environment."


The Horizontal Well Act provides distinct permitting and regulatory rules so that the natural gas industry can develop job opportunities and invest in West Virginia. The Act also provides the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection with sufficient funding and regulatory authority, ensuring the safety and protection of our communities, waterways and surface owner rights. Through provisions pertaining to the repair and maintenance of roads, notice of drilling activity to surface owners and reporting of water and frack fluid usage, the Act will generate responsible Marcellus Shale development throughout West Virginia.


"First, I would like to thank Governor Tomblin for his leadership in calling the special session to address this issue that provides enormous challenges and opportunities for the citizens of the state," said Senate President Jeff Kessler (D- Marshall). "I would also like to thank Speaker Thompson as well as Senator Doug Facemire (D-Braxton) and the members of the joint select committee for their tireless efforts and dedication in formulating a bill that became the framework for this historic piece of legislation we passed today."


"I commend Governor Tomblin, President Kessler and all members of the Legislature for working diligently to develop significant, compromise legislation that puts in place much-needed guidelines for the development of this promising industry," said House Speaker Rick Thompson (D-Wayne). "I am very grateful to the joint committee members -- led by Senate Chairman Facemire and House Chairman Manchin -- who spent months gathering input and deliberating on how best to accomplish that goal. While there were many different ideas as to specifics within this complex bill, the Governor and legislators were in agreement that there was an urgent need for a regulatory framework to address the relationship between oil and gas extractors and surface owners and to provide environmental protections. I am very pleased with the resulting legislation."


"I want to thank the members of the legislature for taking a good bill and making it better for the future of West Virginia," Gov. Tomblin said. "As we continue to create priorities and maintain focus, we will achieve success. We will move West Virginia forward."

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