WVLEG: Marcellus Shale Gets July Interim Focus

By westvirginia on July 1, 2011
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By Steven Allen Adams

When members of the joint select committee tasked with Marcellus Shale regulation returns to the State Capitol Complex for July interim committee meetings, they’ll have one more topic of discussion: getting drilling companies to disclose the chemicals pumped into the ground to dislodge natural gas in shale formations.

The committee, made up of five members of the House of Delegates and the State Senate, will hold its first meeting July 12 in Senate Judiciary Committee room 208 at 6 p.m. The committee is co-chaired by state Sen. Douglas Facemire (D-Braxton) and Del. Tim Manchin (D-Marion).

Other members are Sens. Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha), Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson), Orphy Klempa (D-Ohio), Karen Facemyer (R-Jackson), and Dels. Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Tom Campbell (D-Greenbrier), Woody Ireland (R-Ritchie), and Bill Anderson (R-Wood).

In a press release today, Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) said the Legislature should follow the example of Texas by requiring natural gas drilling companies disclose the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

“People have the right to know what is being put in the ground and potentially in the water,” Kessler said. “I’m not asking companies to disclose anything proprietary about the exact amount or makeup, just the ingredients.”

Natural gas companies have been rushing to the state to tap the vast natural gas reserves trapped in the Marcellus Shale, stretching from New York to Tennessee, which holds pockets of natural gas. The shale is over 100-feet thick in Barbour, Monongalia, and Preston counties. Drilling companies use a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – using a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals – to break natural gas out of the shale formations.

Texas made news last week by being the first to state to pass legislation requiring disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, while some states only require disclosure through the regulatory process. Some companies, such as Chesapeake Energy voluntarily disclose the kinds of chemical used, though most companies refuse to dislcose the quantities used, saying such information is propitiatory.

West Virginia is still without specific regulations for Marcellus Shale. During the Legislature’s 2011 regular session lawmakers couldn’t agree on legislation; something the Senate still blames on the House of Delegates. The state Department of Environmental Protection is using existing regulations for natural gas drilling for Marcellus Shale wells, and the agency has permitted over 1,500 wells, with over half of those already producing. The DEP is monitoring these wells and regular natural gas wells with 17 inspectors.

“West Virginians have voiced legitimate concerns over this issue and we intend to honor their request for disclosure,” Facemire said. “ It is not only our goal, but our responsibility to foster this industry in the most environmentally safe manner possible.”

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Posted under Energy, Environment, House of Delegates, Legislation, Legislature, News, Regulations, State Senate, West Virginia.
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