CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Joe Miller's family has owned a tree farm in Preston County for 150 years. But he's worried about what might happen to his business if drilling for natural gas in the state's Marcellus Shale formation isn't controlled.
"There is a total lack of regulation and oversight. I am afraid I will have no ability to control what happens on our land," Miller said during a Thursday public hearing in the House of Delegates chamber.
But supporters of drilling encouraged lawmakers not to restrict companies too much when it comes to tapping into the vast natural gas reserves, which lie under much of the state.
"Last year, our industry paid $200 million in state taxes and created 35,000 high-paying jobs. Marcellus Shale drilling will create 7,000 new jobs and provide $300 million in salaries," said Mike McCown, president of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia.
But questions remain about how much of that money would reach the people in the communities affected by drilling, one speaker said.
"Today, 10 counties in the state generate 62 percent of the gas we produce. They have a higher rate of poverty than the other  counties," said Sean O'Leary, from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
Each person was allowed to speak for two minutes at Thursday's hearing. Most of the speakers urged legislators to put some restrictions on developers.
John Smisson, an outdoorsman and Sierra Club member, said, "I am concerned about the amount of water used in the process, and the way it is recovered. It is necessary to treat water used in fracking."
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of underground rocks, is a process used to release natural gas reserves. Many critics fear that the millions of gallons of chemically treated water needed to develop each well, typically between 5,000 and 9,000 feet below the surface, will pollute streams and groundwater.
Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, called Marcellus Shale drilling plans "another brewing disaster linked to our unending appetite for energy.