Industry Letter Outlines Opposition to Marcellus Bill

Charleston Gazette
10 November 2011
By Ken Ward Jr.

When I was talking with Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, earlier this week about the Marcellus Shale drilling bill (see here and here), he said one of the biggest problems for lawmakers and staff has been that industry lobbyists kept declining for months to put their concerns about specific language — or proposals for improvement — in writing.

But Delegate Manchin did mention that the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association had recently sent lawmakers a short letter outlining some specific objections to language added to the legislation by a special interim committee. So I thought we’d post that letter here so everyone can give it a read. Among the industry’s objections:

– A buffer zone of 1,000 feet (as originally proposed, but reduced by the committee to 625 feet) between homes and wells “will cause very significant portions of the state to become off-limits to drilling thereby sterilizing many resources.”

– The “casing and cementing requirements” should be left to the state Department of Environmental Protection to write during rulemaking, rather that specifically set by lawmakers. The industry letter says:

It appears that the drafters of the amendment essentially borrowed the language from Pennsylvania regulations that were finalized after considering around 2,000 comments. West Virginians deserve the same opportunity to participate in a rulemaking process rather than having the Legislature serve in the rulemaking capacity.– Requiring public notices of new permit applications to be published in the newspaper “will result in obstructing the well permit application process.”

– Proposed permit fee increases to fund additional inspectors send “a clear message to the industry that “West Virginia is an uncompetitive business environment.”

The letter concludes:

It is WVONGA’s view that the adopted and pending amendments do not advance the cause of promoting the development of our natural resources while at the same time ensuring long-term protection of the environment.

Lawmakers have postponed a scheduled Sunday committee meeting on the bill, instead setting a meeting for 8 a.m. Monday. Stay tuned …