During a lengthy House Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday, committee members combined the Senate's version of the bill, Senate Bill 4001, into their bill along with some other, minor amendments.
The amended bill passed unanimously in the Senate and passed the House with a 94-5 vote.
House Bill 401 increases fees from $400 per well to $10,000 for the first well and $5,000 for each additional well on a single pad. This increase will allow the hiring of at least 17 more inspectors to inspect and review permits. It also requires that at least one week's notice be given to surface owners before an operator can survey the property and that the surface owner gets a copy of the permit application and other documents which show not only the proposed drilling location but also road and impoundment locations. Surface owners, as well as the public, will also be allowed to comment on the permits. An operator must publish a notice in the local newspaper in the county that the drilling will occur on or before filing a permit application. Operators must also enter into an agreement with the Department of Highways (DOH) in order to repair any roads harmed and to also post performance bonds.
Significant additions to permit requirements were also included in the bill. These additions include a sediment control plan, well site construction and safety plan, and a water management plan that includes proposed water withdrawal locations. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been given broad authority regarding distributing these permits.
A concern raised during the House Judiciary's public hearing Monday was the safety of the publics' water wells. One safeguard to combat this fear is a 500 foot increase over the current law for the presumption of contamination for water wells. Also, all fracking additives must be disclosed to the DEP as well as adding safeguards for well casings and drilling in karst terrain. This terrain includes exposed, mechanically and chemically weathered and eroded limestone landscape that may contain sinkholes, caves, and other features.
Lastly, House Bill 401 requires studies for air, pits and impoundments, noise, and job creation be implemented.
Both the House and the Senate adjourned Sine Die.
This legislation, which is identical to the bill the Senate passed yesterday, save for seven minor amendments, completes action on new rules and permit fees for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
The measure sets minimum distances between wells and such things as houses, drinking wells and public water structures. It also spells out when developers should provide prior notices to affected surface property owners. The bill also calls for $10,000 permit fees for initial wells and $5,000 fees for each well added to that site.
The Senate has adjourned Sine Die
The measure now must go to the West Virginia state Senate for its consideration.
The House is in recess until 1:00 p.m. later today.
Also, a message from the Senate regarding that body's passage of Senate Bill 4001, which pertains to the regulation of oil and gas wells, was taken up for immediate consideration and the bill was read a first time and advanced to second reading.
The House is adjourned until tomorrow, Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at 10 a.m.
The Senate made some technical amendments to the bill before suspending the constitutional rules requiring a bill be read on three separate days. Following the suspension of the rules, the bill was read a third time and passed.
The Senate has adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow.
Following the floor session the House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing beginning at 4:30 p.m. to allow public comment regarding House Bill 401. Nearly 70 speakers spoke, in equal numbers for and against the measure, for nearly two hours before the meeting was adjourned.
The House stands adjourned until tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 4:00 p.m.
The House Judiciary Committee will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. to begin deliberations on House Bill 401
The bill, which would regulate oil and gas wells, was then read a first time and advanced to the Senate Finance Committee.
The Senate Finance Committee is currently meeting in Room 451M
The Senate is in recess until 6 p.m.
The Senate met briefly this evening to receive the Senate Finance's committee report with its recommendation for the passage of Senate Bill 4001.
The Senate has adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Members from both bodies will be discussing legislation to regulate oil and gas wells as they relate to the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. The House of Delegates introduced House Bill 401 which would establish the Natural Gas Horizontal Wells Control Act. This bill was read a first time prior to being referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Senators introduced Senate Bill 4001 which would regulate oil and gas wells. This bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee with a second committee reference to the Senate Finance Committee.
The Senate is adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, Monday, December 12th, 2011.
The House is adjourned until 4:00 p.m. tomorrow, Monday, December 12th, 2011.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet tomorrow, December 12th, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
The House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing tomorrow, Monday, December 12th, 2011 in the House Chamber at 4:30 p.m. to discuss House Bill 401.