CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Citizen groups are pressing West Virginia lawmakers to enact more restrictions to protect residents who live in the midst of the state's boom in natural gas production.
Representatives of the West Virginia Environmental Council and the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization say the results of recent state-sponsored studies show the need for more action.
Dave McMahon, a lobbyist for the surface owners group, reminded lawmakers this week that state regulators declined to propose tougher restrictions themselves, saying that the state studies showed "no indications of a public health emergency."
"We don't think they should wait for an emergency," McMahon said. "We think they should improve people's quality of living right now."
McMahon and Don Garvin, lead lobbyist for the environmental council, appeared Monday before a monthly interim meeting of the Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary.
Over the last few months, the panel has heard testimony about reports looking at air quality, waste disposal and other issues related to the boom in natural gas production in the state's Marcellus Shale region.
Lawmakers mandated the reports when they passed a drilling bill promoted by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin during a special session two years ago this month. Legislators and the governor weakened some key parts of the bill but said they could revisit those issues based on the results of the mandated studies.
One study found consistent and potentially significant problems with the way oil and gas companies build drilling waste pits and with how state regulators inspect those impoundments.
Another study found that language in the new law that prohibits drilling sites within 625 feet of occupied dwellings does not make sense for protecting the public.