Senate OKs bill on shale
Measure Establishes WVU Research Center
Morgantown Dominion Post
3 April 2013
By David Beard
CHARLESTON — The Legislature is taking another crack at creating a
WVU Shale Research Center.
SB 98 passed muster in the Senate on Tuesday, heading to the House
after a 33-0 vote.
Last year, an effort to create a center tanked on the last day of
the session, as the House refused to concur with Senate changes
that expanded the bill’s scope.
What passed out of the Senate on Tuesday is nearly identical to
what the Senate did last year, minus one short, but problematic,
SB 98 creates the WVU Shale Research, Education Policy and
Economic Development Center. The original version of the bill —
essentially the same as 2012’s HB 4511 — simply created the
center. It’s two pages long.
But the Senate Education Committee revamped SB 98 to match last
year’s SB 522, which the Senate subsequently amended wholesale
into HB 4511 — leading to the ultimate doom of 4511 on the last
day. The new SB 98 is five pages long.
The expanded SB 98 starts with a section, added by the committee,
defining research centers in general. It requires the governing
board of any state college or university wishing to launch a
research center to submit a proposal to the Higher Education
Policy Commission spelling out the center’s name, governance,
goals, staff and resources.
A problematic provision from SB 522 is gone from SB 98: A
requirement that the HEPC approve all proposals for centers. SB 98
merely requires the colleges and universities to submit proposals.
The third page of the bill returns to the original version. It
observes that new horizontal drilling and hydrofracking technology
provides the state with resources that “have the potential to
generate jobs, stimulate economic activity, ensure energy security
reduce carbon and other emissions and provide significant revenues
to the state. … Creation of this entity will allow West Virginia
to focus on the prudent development and regulation of natural gas
and liquid hydrocarbon from the shale resources in the state and
throughout the world.”
It spells out seven purposes of the WVU center to reflect those
observations, then lists eight potential areas of research
including efficient extraction technologies, environmental and
economic impacts, policy analysis, workforce development and best
The center will have the opportunity to work with industry and
government bodies around the world, and with other state
universities. Funding can come from the Legislature — though no
specific amount is established or required — and from private
industry, federal and international sources.
The bill’s fiscal note says it carries no cost to the state. For
WVU, it estimates the cost at $250,000 per year for four years,
consisting of faculty and staff costs of $200,000 plus $50,000 for
Education Committee Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, said he
hasn’t had any talks with House members and doesn’t know how the
bill will be received — though WVU supports it and the HEPC
approval requirement is gone.
House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said the bill will
go through the committee process and be reviewed.
WVU spokesman John Bolt said WVU is aware of the bill but has no
comment at this time.