DEP Taking Horizontal Drilling Application Comments Online

The State Journal
14 March 2012
By Pam Kasey

Public notice and opportunity for comment on horizontal well applications are coming into place.

On March 14, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is launching its Horizontal Drilling Permit web page for anyone interested in learning about and commenting on permit applications for horizontally drilled oil and gas wells.

Public notice and comment were sought especially after two Marcellus gas wells were permitted last spring just above Morgantown's drinking water intake without residents' knowledge.

In December, the Legislature directed DEP in the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act to create a public-access web page on its website. Combined with other provisions of the act, here's how residents can make use of the new transparency.

Receive notice

Residents and other interested parties can now receive notice of horizontal well permit applications in two ways, according to DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco.

They can watch for public notice in their local newspapers. That notice has to be published 10 days before a permit application is filed. They also can sign up on DEP's Horizontal Drilling Permit web page for e-mail notification of permit applications by county.


It will be easy, now, to know the location of a proposed well.

Each public notice and well permit application will include a set of coordinates, either latitude-longitude or Universal Transverse Mercator. Entering those into a coordinate-conversion and mapping page on the Horizontal Drilling Permit website will return a fairly detailed map.

Chesapeake Appalachia, for example, published notice Feb. 11 and Feb. 18 in the Dominion Post in Morgantown for a horizontal well at UTM NAD83 coordinates Northing: 4395805.2 and Easting: 568125.8. Entering those in the mapper plots a site off Daybrook Road near Blacksville in Monongalia County, and topographic markings make it possible to see in some detail on which hillside the wellpad would be located.

In another use of the mapping function, property owners also can get some sense of whether proposed wells are close enough that they want to have their drinking water supplies tested in advance of drilling. Anyone whose water supply well lies within 1,500 feet of the center of the proposed wellpad should automatically receive a copy of the application from the applicant.

View permits

If the proposed location inspires further interest, the Horizontal Drilling Page explains how to get access to the permit application.

Applications unfortunately are not available online at this time. Cosco said this is largely because applications are dynamic documents, revised sometimes daily based on interactions among permit writers, applicants and property owners, and the DEP's Office of Oil and Gas doesn't have the resources at this time to update the files online with every change.

She said their file sizes also can be extremely large — some applications run to more than 100 pages and can include multiple images.

Applications may in the future be placed on the agency's ePermitting function along with mining permits, Cosco said. In the meantime, they may be viewed at DEP's offices in Charleston or obtained on CD for $15. See the web page for details.


Anyone can comment, and it's not always necessary to see a permit application to provide valuable comments, Cosco said.

"If the road tends to slip in the rainy season, you can comment about that," she said by way of example. "We don't have any purview over the roads, but we would make sure the company is addressing that with the highway or the county."

If a well is proposed for an area that floods, as another example, a resident familiar with those conditions can make the DEP aware of that.

To comment, or to view comments, enter the proposed well's unique eight-digit API number that is assigned within a few days of the time the application is received. The Horizontal Drilling Permit comments page leads users to a permit search function. Entering information from the public notice or from the e-mailed notice will yield the API number.

The Horizontal Drilling Permit web page may be accessed from the DEP's Office of Oil and Gas.

To review the web site requirements in the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act, scroll down to section §22-6A-21.