March 12, 2010
SB 369 Amended into HB 4513, the Marcellus Water Bill
On Wednesday afternoon, as the House Judiciary Committee prepared to take up SB 369, a subcommittee of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining (EIM) Committee amended the provisions of SB 369 into the HB 4513, the Marcellus Water bill. In addition to adopting this amendment, the subcommittee also weakened the protections for our water resources. HB 4513 was adopted by the full EIM Committee, as amended, and is now before the full Senate. As it now stands, HB 4513 requires very little of oil and gas drillers that is not already required by the WV DEP and has SB 369 in it.
We find if very unfortunate, but we cannot support HB 4513, in its current form. What started out as a good bill aimed at protecting our water resources has now become a vehicle to allow many Marcellus vertical wells (those drilled more than 20 feet into the Onondaga) to legally steal gas from neighboring mineral owners.
The amendments to HB 4513 would change the definition of a "shallow well" so that it applies to many vertical Marcellus Shale wells. Unlike wells defined as "deep wells," "shallow wells" are not subject to well spacing and royalty sharing laws which allow mineral owners whose natural gas is drained by wells on their neighbors to receive their share of the royalties. If Marcellus wells aren't subject to those laws, gas drillers could drill on the edge of a neighboring mineral owners' land and drain gas from that tract without paying for it. One Marcellus Shale well could start out taking more than $1,000 a day in royalties from a neighboring mineral owner.
The bill is also bad for surface owners because without well spacing, there can be more of these larger sites on the surface, with no limit on how close together they can be. Well spacing is good for surface owners because only the number of wells necessary to produce the gas will be drilled. Without well spacing, the “rule of capture” applies resulting in extra, unnecessary wells being drilled as unscrupulous drillers, who are paid by the well, try to be the first to get the gas from the same pool. Each additional well site causes forest fragmentation, results in more soil erosion and stream sedimentation, and increases risks groundwater and other features of the environment.
Well spacing is also good for consumers because drilling fewer wells to get out more gas means less cost to get out the gas. It is good for everyone else in the process because it saves money and produces more gas than when the “rule of capture” applies.
Now is the time to make your voice heard.
We expect the Senate to pass HB 4513 as amended. At that point the House can accept or reject the Senate changes to the bill.
Please contact your Delegates and urge them to oppose HB 4513 unless the provisions changing the definition of "shallow" and "deep" wells are removed.
Call the Capitol toll free at (877)-565-3447 to leave a message for your Delegates. Click here to get Delegates' Capitol office numbers and e-mail addresses. If you do not know who your Delegates are you can find out here.
VA Group Looking for WV Surface Owners to Address Group
Residents of the Bergton/Criders, VA community are interested in hearing from West Virginia surface owners about their experiences. Community members are holding an educational meeting on oil and gas drilling on Thursday, March 18, 2010 from 6:30-8:00p.m. at the Bergton School-Library, Bergton, VA (1 hour NW of Harrisonburg). If you would like to share your experiences with the group, please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Bruce Ritchie at (540) 852-3422, (540) 209-1920 or email@example.com. The group can reimburse you for your travel expenses.