Marcellus Executive Order was Weakened within Hours of Public Announcement

by Dee Fulton on July 29, 2011

Ken Ward Jr of the Charleston Gazette reported that, based upon records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the draft executive order for emergency Marcellus rules was revised within hours of the press conference making it final and public.  The report notes that the draft order was provided in advance to media outlets but required to be held until the time of the public announcement.  The draft was also provided in advance to at least one industry group, Energize West Virginia, as evidenced by the posting of the embargoed draft on that group’s website. No draft of the order was shared with groups calling for stronger regulation prior to the press conference. The revised order was provided to media outlets in the hours preceding the press conference.

The final order contained two significant changes from the draft.  The draft language mandated that the WVDEP give notice of application for drilling within a municipality and within one mile of the municipality.  The final order dropped the “within one mile” requirement.   The second change was that rather than require erosion control and well-site construction to be built “under the supervision of” a registered professional engineer, the final order requires only that the construction be carried out in accordance with plans certified by a registered professional engineer.

The governor’s office has refused to comply with a FOIA request submitted by the Charleston Gazette for correspondence between the office and industry which may shed some light upon the extent of the involvement of industry agents in the crafting of the acting governor’s revised executive order.

Steptoe and Johnson has a summary of the final executive order on their website written in lay language.

POST AMENDED JULY 29.   “prior to the press conference at which the (revised) executive order was made public”  was deleted after “posting of the embargoed draft report on that group’s website.”

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