Joint Select Marcellus Committee of WV Legislature Adopts Three Amendments

by Duane Nichols on September 13, 2011

WV Joint Select Marcellus Committee Completing Work

The Joint Select Committee on Marcellus Shale approved three amendments Monday morning as it continued working toward a bill that would place new regulations and fees on the natural gas drilling industry.  The first would abolish the Oil and Gas Examining Board and transfer its duties to the WV-DEP. The second would allow for public comment and hearings on gas well permits. The third would increase the number of people who would have to be notified when a company plans to drill a well.

The DEP  asked the Legislature to abolish the board and transfer those duties to the agency. “It doesn’t add any value to the services of state government,” Kristin Boggs, the general counsel to the DEP, told the committee. “It’s a lot of money for someone with an office as small as the Board of Oil and Gas.” Delegate “Woody” Ireland, R-Ritchie, said the board has not had a member representing the public for several years. Now, he said, the board has two members. One comes from large drilling companies and one from smaller drilling companies, he said. He likened the situation to a fox guarding the henhouse.

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, supported the amendment because it would let the public know inspectors are independent of the drilling industry. Boggs said the DEP wants to expand its gas well inspection force by adding people who are trained in soil and water issues. Gas well inspectors can do what she called “down hole” inspections, but hydraulic fracturing sites include retention ponds and other matters that require people knowledgeable in that specialty, she said.

Although the amendment pertaining to public comment passed unanimously, there was concern from the DEP and from an industry spokesman about unintended consequences. “Unlike coal, you’re looking at 400 or 500 permit applications a year,” said Phil Reale, representing the Independent Oil and Gas Association. “The number of hearings that potentially could be held could cripple the industry.” Fleischauer said the DEP secretary could use his or her discretion in deciding which permits would need a public hearing. The amendment would not require public hearings, she said. Boggs said she hadn’t seen the amendment being discussed. She said the DEP is not against a public comment period, but the demand for hearings could be a burden on the agency.

The Committee’s next meeting is 2 to 4 pm  Wednesday, September 14th,  in the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting room at the State Capitol. A total of 10 amendments have been adopted thus far with 11 left to handle in the remaining two-hour session, according to co-chairs Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, and Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, reports the Morgantown Dominion Post.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Ford October 24, 2011 at 11:35 am

The gas drilling companys will generate an economic boom to our state and monies will be generated to the state, communities, towns, businesses, etc. You evidentally intend to assess them greater drilling fees than neighboring states along with the severance tax yet when Walmart or other small business start up you give them tax advantages, etc. Walmarts put the local small businesses out of business whereas the gas industry will generate monies to be spent in the local economies.


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: