Jul 12, 2011- Tomblin Announces Marcellus Shale Regulations

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) issued an executive order Tuesday establishing some rules for Marcellus Shale drilling, as the Legislature continues to debate long-term regulations for the emerging industry.

<b>UPDATE: 7/12/11 @ 10:10 p.m.</b>
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) issued an executive order Tuesday establishing some rules for Marcellus Shale drilling, as the Legislature continues to debate long-term regulations for the emerging industry.

With tens of thousands of jobs and the environment at stake, Tomblin announced a series of actions related to areas such as public notification, impacts to groundwater, chemicals used in the drilling process.

People in the industry have talked about the billions of dollars that'll come to the state along with more jobs, but they say they've felt uncertain because state leaders haven’t enacted regulations.

In a news release, Tomblin’s office outlined some of the specific rules he’s enacting:

•         Marcellus Shale drilling applicants seeking to drill within the boundaries of a municipality must file a public notice of intent to drill.

•         Surface land use that will disturb 3 or more acres must be certified by and constructed in accordance with plans certified by a registered professional engineer.

•         Companies withdrawing over 210,000 gallons of water a month must file a water management plan with the DEP and adhere to certain specified standards.

•    Before fracking begins, such companies must also provide a list of additives that will be used in the frack fluid, and after fracking is complete, the additives actually used.

•         When using water from a public stream, a company must identify the designated and existing uses of that stream.

“I've been working on this directive for quite some time, and I believe the requirements which I set forth will responsibly regulate Marcellus Shale drilling, provide regulatory certainty in our burgeoning natural gas industry," says Tomblin.

One of the environmental concerns cited is hydraulic fracturing, the process drillers use to capture the natural gas. It involves a mixture of water and chemicals being pumped deep into the ground to release the gas.

During the regular legislative session this past winter, lawmakers debated, but did not pass, a regulatory bill dealing with the Marcellus Shale.

Industry leaders have pointed out that businesses are reluctant to invest. They say since the rules have not been established, there’s concern they could change.

“With uncertainty like we've had, it's difficult to have the capital come in for new wells. Marcellus Shale drilling takes a lot of capital," says John Haskins, incoming president of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia.

Republican House Minority Leader Tim Armstead points out, "Rather than trying to rush in and just put something in place just to have something in place, we want to make sure we put the right regulations in place."

The rules Tomblin announced Tuesday can only stay in effect for up to 15 months. It's up to the legislature to pass something long-term.

A joint House-Senate task force aimed at finding a compromise to get regulations passed met Tuesday night.
 
“You can't do everything by rule, but I think it's incumbent upon the Legislature to take this and to make the next step for a permanent solution," says Sen. Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha)

Senate President Jeff Kessler said he was optimistic lawmakers could craft a bill to be passed by mid-fall.

Some industry leaders question whether there needs to be any added regulation at all, but they say they at least welcome certainty in knowing what will and will not be allowed.

"We've not been against regulation, we just want responsible regulations that allow us to go forward and do what we do best," says Nicholas DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

State officials say they hope to have the new rules in place in about 30 days.
    
Tomblin says he still would call a special session if lawmakers can reach an agreement on long-term laws. 

Republican businessman Bill Maloney, who is running against Tomblin in the special election for governor, released a statement on Tomblin’s announcement. He says, “These rules are more style than substance. We need a comprehensive plan on Marcellus shale regulations now…It's clear that Earl Ray Tomblin is unable to call legislators into a special session to pass a thought-out and detailed plan for Marcellus Shale.“
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<b>UPDATE: 7/12/11 @ 9 p.m.</b>
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Some West Virginia lawmakers are critical of Morgantown's new Marcellus shale drilling ban. But city officials say the Legislature has itself to blame.
     
City council member Bill Byrne told legislators Tuesday that the failure to pass legislation regulating Marcellus drilling prompted the city to act. So did hundreds of resident complaints about Marcellus drilling within a mile of an area drinking water intake.
     
The ordinance bars horizontal Marcellus drilling that employs hydraulic fracturing. That process pumps water mixed with chemicals into wells to break shale rock and release natural gas.
     
Byrne was the first of several speakers scheduled to address a House-Senate committee assigned to attempt a Marcellus rules compromise. It meets again Wednesday.
  
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday ordered emergency Marcellus rules in the meantime.
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<b>ORIGINAL STORY: 7/12/11 @ 2:20 p.m.</b>
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia regulators will take the lead on regulating Marcellus shale natural gas drilling, while lawmakers prepare for a possible special session on the topic.
     
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced an executive order Tuesday that directs the Department of Environmental Protection to issue emergency rules.
     
Drilling this rich natural gas reserve can involve hydraulic fracturing. That's when drillers pump large amounts of water mixed with chemicals into wells to crack the shale and release the gas.
     
Tomblin wants drillers to detail this process, known as fracking. Large-scale wells will need water management plans. DEP must approve disposing of frackwater in public wastewater treatment plants.

Other rules cover well design, call for public notice before drilling within municipalities and require certified construction and sediment control plans in some cases.
 

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