DEP Secretary Says There is a Chance for New Marcellus Regulation this Year

by Duane Nichols on June 28, 2011

The Secretary for the WV Department of Environmental Protection says, if everyone is willing to give a little, there could be legislation setting up a regulatory framework for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale this year. “If they will not hold other people’s issues hostage to their own, then we can get somewhere,” Randy Huffman said of the chances for a Marcellus bill.

Five members of the state House of Delegates and five members of the state Senate have been appointed to a group that will try to draft another version of the bill that failed to make it out of 2011 Regular Legislative Session.

Because there are no statewide regulations for drilling right now, officials in the City of Morgantown took steps to create their own rules last week. City Council there approved a ban on fracking in and within a mile of city limits.  Supporters say they’re concerned about the potential impact of fracking on Morgantown’s water and air quality.

The Senate-side chairman of the Marcellus shale committee, Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, said, “I think it’s critical that we don’t have a bunch of different pockets of laws, like where the City of Morgantown passed their ordinances. I just think it would be wrong for every city and every town and every county to have these rules.” He said it’s not fair to the industry to have different sets of rules everywhere.

Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, is one of the members of a 10-member House and Senate committee charged with crafting new environmental regulations for Marcellus drilling. He said the goal was to protect the environment but also allow for “responsible” production of gas. But he said the regulations mustn’t “strangle the industry … I think like what Morgantown did – that’s a perfect example.”

Huffman at the WV-DEP stated his priorities now are (1) site management for well pads to limit erosion, subsidence and sediment, (2) water management from withdrawal thru to ultimate disposal with record keeping, and (3) increased permit fees of perhaps $5,000 per well versus the current $600 to help pay for 10 to 15 new inspectors.

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