"Furthermore, that's an issue for the Legislature, not regulators," Aluise said.
Corky Demarco, a spokesman for the West Virginia Oil and Gas Association, said the implications of a permit moratorium "would be far reaching."
"This industry is well-regulated, providing good paying jobs, a cleaner environment, affordable energy for our residents and an all-American energy that lessens our dependence on foreign sources of energy and provides long term opportunity for manufacturing and economic growth," Demarco said in a prepared statement.
The moratorium demand came as a new review by legislative auditors reported that the number of abandoned oil and gas wells in the state is increasing because the DEP Office of Oil and Gas is not forcing operators to plug inactive wells in a timely manner.
"The OOG is not requiring operators to plug abandoned wells or prove that there is a bona fide use for such wells, as stated in Code," the new audit report said. "Data provided by OOG indicates that the number of abandoned wells is increasing, and some wells remain abandoned for 10 years or more."
In a response letter, DEP officials said their regulatory program regarding oil and gas wells "has been short staffed for years due to lack of funding." The new legislation passed in December includes permit fees aimed at helping DEP hire more staff, the agency noted.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.