"The [West Virginia] Department of Environmental Protection cannot effectively deal with it. They do not have enough inspectors or money. And they don't have enough regulations," Zuckett said.
Marilyn McGeorge, from the League of Women Voters, said, "The League supports a strong regulatory plan. Today, there are only 17 field inspectors to cover new drilling sites, in addition to 157,000 sites already operating. And there will be six million gallons of water used in each well."
Drilling supporters like Greg Kozera, an engineer who works for Superior Well Services based in Elkview, said, "We need to make a decision that doesn't restrict development. We need to develop gas reserves to free ourselves from foreign oil."
Scott Rotruck, vice president of Chesapeake Energy, said drilling for Marcellus Shale reserves offers "a tremendous economic opportunity for the state. It will also help national security."
Rotruck said a number of other useful gases and chemicals, including ethylene and polyethylene, can also be recovered from the natural gas.
He and several other speakers also touched on the issue of pooling, which would allow gas-drilling companies the ability to extract gas under large areas of land, even without permission from every property owner.
"We need pooling. And everybody will get paid [for their reserves]," Rotruck said.
But Bob Hart, from the National Association of Oil and Gas Royalty owners, said, "I am not against pooling. But I am against forced pooling.... We need more study to get this right."
Still, the state's regulation of Marcellus Shale drillers -- or the lack of it -- dominated the discussion Thursday.
"The time has come," said Howard Swint, a commercial property broker in Charleston, "when we should no longer take industry's word about what they will do with our land and resources."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-3348-5164.