Charleston, WV - A bill to regulate the development of Marcellus Shale natural gas passed during a special session of the Legislature this week with the support of Delegates Harry Keith White and Steve Kominar, both from Mingo County.
The bill, House Bill 401, which established the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act, was passed nearly unanimously on the fourth day of this Special Session, the fourth special session of 2011. The bill increases permit fees to $10,000 for the first well and $5,000 for each additional well. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hire at least 17 more people to inspect well sites and review permits.
The bill also requires additional notice to surface owners and the public regarding surveying, proposed drilling locations and permit applications.
“This piece of legislation was a bipartisan, joint effort by both bodies of the West Virginia Legislature coming together to craft the basic regulatory framework from which the state, industry and all other stakeholders can move forward regarding this growing industry,” said Delegate White. “While helping to create the much needed jobs in areas of our state hit hardest by unemployment, we have also provided safeguards and penalties to protect our citizens the abundant natural resources in West Virginia.”
The bill allows the DEP to maintain a new public website about permit information. The bill also directs studies be made of the economic impact of this activity as well as air quality issues and issues related to pits, integrity of impoundments and noise pollution.
“I want to specifically thank the Select Committee and the stakeholders who worked over the last six months to craft this legislation as a good starting point for guiding the Marcellus Shale gas industry as it develops in West Virginia,” said Delegate Kominar. “This is a responsible start which will provide a clear understanding of what is expected of the industry and will allow for future investment and job creation to begin in earnest.”
Governor Tomblin is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.