CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, acting as governor, Wednesday asked the Legislature to add $2 million to the Department of Environmental Protection's budget to enhance the department's ability to inspect gas well sites, in light of the failure to pass legislation to regulate Marcellus Shale drilling this session.
Tomblin reiterated Wednesday that differences between House and Senate versions of the bill are too broad to attempt to resolve them in an immediate special session.
"Because of the divide that exists, I do not believe a special session is warranted at this time," Tomblin said during an afternoon news conference.
Environmental and citizens groups have called for a special session on Marcellus drilling.
In the short term, Tomblin said he believes the DEP can effectively regulate the burgeoning Marcellus Shale industry with the new inspectors and with new in-house regulations.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said the additional funds, which will need to be added to the 2011-12 budget bill, would allow the department to hire eight or nine additional inspectors, who would be assigned to parts of the state where Marcellus Shale drilling is most active.
"We believe that is something that is necessary, and would be done immediately," he said.
Huffman said the DEP has some authority to enact emergency rules on regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling, within a limited scope of issues, such as matters involving water management.
Agencies that have rulemaking authority can immediately enforce emergency rules, while all other rule changes must be approved by the Legislature, though its Rulemaking Review process, before they go into effect.
Tomblin asked legislators to take the additional $2 million for DEP out of the overall $4 billion 2011-12 general revenue budget, but did not specify what accounts should have funding reduced to raise that amount.