WVGOV: Tomblin Proposes New Marcellus Shale Regulations (with video)
Print This Post
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, acting as governor, explains his executive order, creating new Marcellus Shale regulations. (Photo/Steven Allen Adams_
By Steven Allen Adams
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, acting as governor, signed an executive order governing drilling in the state’s Marcellus Shale region, as well as directed the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to create emergency rules as needed until the Legislature comes up with regulations on their own.
Tomblin made the announcement to a packed room full of lawmakers, industry officials, and environmentalists Tuesday afternoon. The new rules come as lawmakers meet for their July interim meetings, including the debut of the Joint Select Committee on Marcellus Shale, which meets Tuesday evening.
Executive Order 4-11 orders companies drilling within city limits to file a public notice first, get engineer approval of any drilling operation that disturbs three or more acres, file a water management plan with DEP if more than 210,000 gallons of water a month are used, and identify the designated and existing uses of streams.
“This executive order is the first step in my long-term plan to ensure responsible development of Marcellus Shale,” Tomblin said. “The good-paying jobs predicted with this development must include the protection of our public’s health and safety as well as that of our environment. I want to thank our citizens who have voiced their concerns about Marcellus Shale drilling and want to assure them that I recognize this emerging segment of the natural gas industry warrants my immediate attention to ensure responsible development.”
The executive order also requires companies to disclose the contents of their fracking fluid – a combination of water, sand and chemicals used to break up the shale and release natural gas. Drilling companies use a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to break natural gas out of the shale formations.
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 executive order will lend some stability to the regulatory environment of the state,” Kessler said. “It is an important first step in recognizing the significance of this potential industry.”
The DEP has permitted over 1,500 wells, with 622 wells already producing. The DEP is monitoring these wells and regular natural gas wells with 17 inspectors.
“This is a ramp-up process,” said DEP Secretary Randy Huffman. “This not something that will happen overnight. We will adjust and modify the program as we go forward.”
Industry officials praised the Acting Governor’s proposal as a way to bring certainty to an industry that recently has been hit by cities, such as Morgantown, trying to regulate on small scale.
“I think what the industry needs and what the investment community demands is clarity and certainty in regulations. I think he’s provided a great first step in that,” said Doug Malcolm, with the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia. “The industry supports reasonable regulations. We’ve seen what the EPA has done to the coal mining industry in West Virginia. The last thing the State of West Virginia needs is the EPA to come in and undermine our efforts as far as development of one of the biggest game-changers in West Virginia.”
Still, those concerned about the dangers of fracking water, property rates, and air quaility say much more needs to happen to make the industry safe. Del. Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) was one of several lawmakers and activists that spoke at a rally Monday calling for a moratorium on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling until the Legislature comes up with regulations.
“This is a step in the right direction, but I think we have a long way to go to fix all of the problems that there are out there with the Marcellus,” said Manypenny. “There is no legislation to hold these companies accountable when they’re responsible (for spills).”
Tomblin was also criticized by the state Republican Party and his Republican opponent in the 2011 special election for governor, Bill Maloney, who believe Tomblin has not shown leadership on this issue. Both Maloney and state Republican Party Chairman Mike Stewart say Tomblin should have called a special session of the Legislature in order to get solid regulations.
“I’m not a career politician. I don’t take credit for half measures and Earl Ray Tomblin shouldn’t either,” Maloney said. “It is absolutely necessary that the legislature pass comprehensive Marcellus shale regulations, not only to create more private sector jobs, but also to protect property owners and the environment.”
“There is a vacuum of leadership in the Governor’s office on the Marcellus issue,” Mike Stuart said. “The opportunity of the Marcellus industry to West Virginia is unprecedented in modern history and we need a Governor that will lead on this critical issue rather than delay final action. Emergency rules are a temporary band-aid that provides little to no long-term certainty for gas companies and property owners involved in this multi-billion dollar industry.”
Such a special session could come as soon as August when lawmakers return for redistricting. Watch our video report below:
- WVLEG: WV4MOM Rallies for Marcellus Shale Moratorium (with video) (westvirginia.watchdog.org)
- WVLEG: Experts Tout Benefits of Locating a Ethane Cracker in W.Va. (westvirginia.watchdog.org)
Posted under Audio, Economic Development, Economy, Energy, Environment, Featured, Governor, Legislation, News, Politics, Regulations, West Virginia.
Tags: Bill Maloney, Department of Environmental Protection, Earl Ray Tomblin, Marcellus Formation, Marcellus Shale, Mike Stuart, Natural gas, Republican, West Virginia
Comments are closed.