CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As they enter the last few days of the legislative session, state lawmakers are still working out the details of proposed regulations for Marcellus Shale development.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday were scheduled to take up Senate-passed legislation (SB424) on natural gas drilling, but instead decided to consider the legislation at a meeting set for this morning.
Committee members are expected to replace the Senate bill with provisions the House had favored, including stronger environmental regulations. The legislative session ends Saturday.
Even as time runs out, Dave McMahon of the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization said he remains optimistic.
"We're hopeful that a good bill will pass," he said.
In the House Judiciary Committee, members including Delegates Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, and Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, have pushed for stronger environmental regulations.
There has been bipartisan support to protect surface owners, McMahon said.
"We've seen the rural House Republicans trying to improve surface owners' rights, which is why this should come out a strong bill," he said.
Among other things, the legislation would make drillers develop water management plans and disclose what is in the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing -- where millions of gallons of water are mixed with chemicals and pumped underground to fracture shale deposits.
The bill requires no public notice of horizontal well drilling. And it would allow gas wells to be placed within 200 feet of people's homes and water wells, which is the current legal limit.
All of the regulations would only apply to horizontal Marcellus wells.
It has been hard to compete with influence of industry lobbyists, McMahon said. Both the House and Senate have significantly scaled back initially proposed regulations.
Environmentalists and surface owners were disappointed in changes made last month by the Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Committee.
Sen. Doug Facemire, vice chairman of that committee, said he sought balance in the legislation.