September 12, 2011
New Drilling Regulations Still Needed ~ Select Committee Must Continue Its Work
When the Legislature's Select Committee on Marcellus Shale met in early August, the committee made some good progress toward developing new drilling regulations. Although the committee did not make as much progress as we had hoped, we thought they might continue their work when the Legislature had to reconvene in special session to fix the House of Delegates redistricting bill. House co-chair Delegate Tim Manchin (D-Marion) was anxious to use the special session to get some work done and proposed the Committee hold two meetings, but Manchin's Senate counterpart, Senator Doug Facemire (D-Braxton) refused to schedule any meetings.
When asked about possible meetings of the Select Committee during the second redistricting session, Facemire told a reporter from the Charleston Daily Mail:
“The thing of it is, we’re not going to be there. The Senate is going to convene Thursday at noon; then we’re going to recess until Sunday,” Facemire said. “I’m not even coming down until Sunday. I’ve got to work. I’ve got a business to run.”
Facemire also told the reporter with the Charleston Daily Mail, that he was in no hurry because the emergency rules ordered in July by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin – which were not yet in effect – would be enough to tide the state over until lawmakers meet early next year. (You can read the Daily Mail article here.)
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection filed the emergency rules with the Secretary of State’s office on August 22 and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant approved them on August 29. However, from the perspective of WV-SORO and allied organizations (you can read WV-SORO's critique of the emergency rules here and get the perspective of the WV Environmental Council here), the emergency rules are inadequate to ensure safe, responsible development of the Marcellus Shale. A number of important issues remain unaddressed and therefore, it remains imperative for the Legislature to act.
We need to let committee members and our legislators know that we want them to continue their work and continue to make improvements to the bill.
Please contact members of the Select Committee (see list of members and contact information below) and your legislators while they are in Charleston this week (September 12-14). Tell them you want them to pass legislation this year to protect citizens and our land, air and water.
For surface owners in particular, there is nothing in the emergency rules that will aid surface owners in having their rights recognized and respected by the drillers. There is no requirement for drillers to negotiate with surface owners on the location of well sites, access roads and pipelines or that drillers accommodate surface owners’ concerns, plans for or uses of their property. There is no requirement that wells be drilled further away from people’s homes. And there are no expanded water testing or replacement requirements.
Additionally, regulations are only as good as their enforcement, but the emergency rules will not increase permit fees to provide the DEP with funding to hire additional inspectors, nor will they changes current hiring practices the give the industry too much control over who can be hired as an inspector.
The Legislature is the only body that can ensure that these needed regulatory changes happen. The Select Committee has scheduled two meetings this week. The House members have prepared at least a dozen additional amendments for the committee to consider. And they have not even begun to talk seriously about increasing permit fees in order to fund the Office of Oil and Gas and hire more inspectors.
New drilling regulations are needed to give surface owners more say in the location of wells and access roads and to protect our land, air and water.
Click here to see WV-SORO's list of priorities and other essential elements that should be included in these regulations.
Please contact members of the Select Committee and your legislators today. Tell them you're tired of waiting.
Senator Doug Facemire, Co-Chair
Senator Karen Facemyer
Senator Orphy Klempa
Senator Corey Palumbo
Senator Herb Snyder
Delegate Tim Manchin
Delegate Bill Anderson
Delegate Tom Campbell
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer
Delegate Woody Ireland