Tomblin wants to 'tweak' Marcellus bill
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday he hopes his administration will be able to adjust draft legislation for regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling in time for a special session in mid-December.
But a leader of the legislative committee that put the bill together thinks Tomblin's "tweaks" would gut the bill.
Tomblin said Wednesday that the state Department of Environmental Protection "is looking at the recommendations. There will be a few tweaks to the bill the subcommittee has recommended," said Tomblin, referring to a House/Senate select committee that approved a draft bill on Nov. 16, following months of meetings on the issue.
"Hopefully, we'll get an agreement, and will be able to call a special session to coincide with the December interims," he said.
Monthly legislative interim meetings are scheduled for Dec. 12-14.
Among the changes Tomblin said he would like to see in the bill would be to move certain regulations that are currently written into the bill, such as standards for gas well casings, to a legislative rule-making review process.
"The way technology is changing ... more of these decisions should be left to DEP," he said.
Typically, regulatory legislation sets out broad goals and guidelines, but leaves the specifics for writing and enforcing the regulations to the particular agency, subject to the Legislature's rule-making review process.
However, Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, co-chairman of the select committee, said having minimum standards set in state law is the core of the proposed legislation.
"To have these minimum regulations in there, or minimum guideline standards, will do a lot to alleviate the fears of our people about this industry, and improve the industry's standing to the public," Manchin said.
"I feel that's the heart of this bill: To guarantee to our people that we're doing all we can that's reasonably possible to assure there won't be contamination of our underground drinking water supply," he said.
Tomblin said he also has concerns with provisions in the draft bill that would require drilling companies to file disclosures with the Division of Labor, providing a breakdown of resident and out-of-state employees, including identifying hometowns and salary schedules for in-state versus out-of-state employees.
Tomblin said he's "100 percent supportive" of creating jobs for West Virginians, but said the proposed disclosure requirements would be unprecedented.
"As far as I know, that would be the only industry that would have to report where its employees come from," he said.
Manchin, meanwhile, said he doesn't understand why the industry is opposed to compiling jobs data, since they already have that information in personnel records.
"I'm concerned they're fighting it because they know how bad the numbers will look," he said.
Nonetheless, Manchin said there's still opportunity for the Legislature and Tomblin administration to reach consensus in time for a December special session.
"Anything's possible. I think the governor wants a bill, and reasonable people can differ," Manchin said.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 30-348-1220.