WV SORO Action Alert Archive

June 28, 2011

Marcellus Shale Committee Needs to Hear from You

WV-SORO and others have been calling for a special session to address concerns with Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling since the 2011 regular session ended with no action taken by the legislature.  Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Government and Finance, which is comprised of the legislature's top leadership, authorized the creation of a Select Committee to study natural gas drilling and prepare for a special session later this summer.  And just yesterday, the Acting Governor indicated that he was optimistic legislators might come up with a compromise by August.  While these are encouraging developments, perhaps our biggest fear now is that there will be so much political pressure to do something that they will only pass half-way measures that will fall short of the real changes needed to protect surface owners, citizens and the environment.

You can help ensure that surface owners rights are considered in new drilling regulations by contacting members of the Select Committee (see list of members and contact information below) and your legislators today.

The problems related to Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling require a comprehensive overhaul of our state's oil and gas regulatory program.  The DEP Office of Oil and Gas has too few inspectors and our laws have not kept up with technological advances. As part of this overhaul legislators need to pass something that will aid surface owners in having their rights recognized and respected by the drillers.  There are surface owner issues with environmental implications that DEP wants to address -- such as increasing the distance wells must be from homes and water wells, expanded water testing parameters, and prohibiting on-site burial of drilling waste -- that we support and appreciate.  We also understand that DEP does not want to be put in the position of mediating disputes between landowners and drillers.  However, the legislature can do to give drillers incentives to work more closely with landowners and involve them in the planning process that would not require intervention of the DEP.  These include:

  • Requiring drillers to meet with surface owners BEFORE filing an application for a permit, and giving the parties time to come to an agreement on the location of the well site and access roads and how they will be built, maintained and reclaimed. 
  • Allowing mediation to be requested by either party to help facilitate an agreement. 
  • If no agreement is reached, requiring drillers to post an individual well bond that  guarantee the surface owners' compensation for damages.

The industry touts all the benefits and winners in the rush to develop the Marcellus Shale, but the current reality is that there is little or no accommodation of a surface owners' concerns or plans or uses for their property when they are faced with oil and gas development.  Since the legislature has already given tax breaks to the industry for infrastructure, it would seem unconscionable to do nothing for surface owners. To give surface owners some some say in the process in exchange for these intrusions upon their lives and property is the least the legislature can do.

Your calls and letters are needed now to ensure that surface owners concerns are addressed in a meaning full way. 

Many of you have personal stories that exemplify the need for legislation to protect surface owners and our land and water from Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling. Please contact members of the Select Committee (see list of members and contact information below) and your legislators today.

We expect the Select Committee to meet in Charleston during the July interims (July 11-13).  Before they meet, please send members a personal letter or e-mail to share your stories and concerns.  Tell them about what happened to you and educate them about the regulatory changes needed to expand surface owners’ rights and help us protect our land and our water resources. Send us a copy of your letters and e-mails so we can share your stories with lawmakers too.  Thank you!

Senate Members
Senator Doug Facemire, Co-Chair
PO Box 215
Sutton, WV 26601
(304) 357-7845

Senator Karen Facemyer
Rt. 1 Box 142
Ripley, WV 25271
(304) 357-7855

Senator Orphy Klempa
5 Locust Avenue
Wheeling, WV 26003
(304) 357-7918

Senator Corey Palumbo
1206 Williamsburg Way
Charleston, WV 25314
(304) 357-7880

Senator Herb Snyder
PO Box 400
Shenadoah Junction, WV 25442
(304) 357-7957

House Members
Delegate Tim Manchin
1543 Fairmont Avenue, Suite 203
Fairmont, WV 26554
(304) 340-3166

Delegate Bill Anderson
1011 Highland Avenue
Williamstown, WV 26187
(304) 340-3168

Delegate Tom Campbell
PO Box 1126
Lewisburg, WV 24901
(304) 340-3280

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer
235 High Street, Suite 618
Morgantown, WV 26505
(304) 340-3169

Delegate Woody Ireland
342 Ireland Road
Pullman WV 26421
(304) 340-3195


West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25311