§22C-8-1. Declaration of public policy; legislative findings.

(a) It is hereby declared to be the public policy of this state and in the public interest to:

(1) Ensure the safe recovery of coal and gas;

(2) Foster, encourage and promote the fullest practical exploration, development, production, recovery and utilization of this state's coal and gas, where both are produced from beneath the same surface lands, by establishing procedures, including procedures for the establishment of drilling units, for the location of shallow gas wells without substantially affecting the right of the gas operator proposing to drill a shallow gas well to explore for and produce gas; and

(3) Safeguard, protect and enforce the correlative rights of gas operators and royalty owners in a pool of gas to the end that each such gas operator and royalty owner may obtain a just and equitable share of production from such pool of gas.

(b) The Legislature hereby determines and finds that gas found in West Virginia in shallow sands or strata has been produced continuously for more than one hundred years; that the placing of shallow wells has heretofore been regulated by the state for the purpose of ensuring the safe recovery of coal and gas, but that regulation should also be directed toward encouraging the fullest practical recovery of both coal and gas because modern extraction technologies indicate the desirability of such change in existing regulation and because the energy needs of this state and the United States require encouragement of the fullest practical recovery of both coal and gas; that in order to encourage and ensure the fullest practical recovery of coal and gas in this state and to further ensure the safe recovery of such natural resources, it is in the public interest to enact new statutory provisions establishing a shallow gas well review board which shall have the authority to regulate and determine the appropriate placing of shallow wells when gas well operators and owners of coal seams fail to agree on the placing of such wells, and establishing specific considerations, including minimum distances to be allowed between certain shallow gas wells, to be utilized by the shallow gas well review board in regulating the placing of shallow wells; that in order to encourage and ensure the fullest practical recovery of coal and gas in this state and to protect and enforce the correlative rights of gas operators and royalty owners of gas resources, it is in the public interest to enact new statutory provisions establishing a shallow gas well review board which shall also have authority to establish drilling units and order the pooling of interests therein to provide all gas operators and royalty owners with an opportunity to recover their just and equitable share of production.