Drilling is in overdrive as companies rush to tap the vast reserves of the Marcellus Shale field that underlies most of the state.
Reaching the mile-deep deposits requires deep, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies that the industry says are safe. Critics, however, worry about water pollution, road damage and other issues, and legislators are struggling to find common ground on effective regulation.
They hope to have a comprehensive bill by year's end, but the permit fee is not the only hurdle.
The panel has also approved provisions increasing bond requirements, enhancing public notice of drilling and compensating the owners of surface land where operators drill their wells.
Operators are concerned about what they consider unnecessary evaluations of air emissions and the notion there could be a public hearing on every permit request,
"There's all kinds of problems with this thing," DeMarco said.
Burd said oil and gas operators are also being singled out in a provision that would require them to report where their out-of-state employees come from and how much they're paid. No other industry is required to do that, he said.
Coal miners often travel long distances for work. Teachers in West Virginia border counties often take better-paying jobs in neighboring states. Casino employees in the Eastern and Northern Panhandles employ residents of other states as well as West Virginians. In Parkersburg, where Burd lives, workers travel back and forth between Ohio and West Virginia for work.
"Lots of companies rely on workers from outside the state to fill their roles," Burd said, "and the oil and gas industry is no different.
"The committee intends to have a bill," he said. "Whether or not that bill is one that can be made acceptable to the regulators, to the environmental groups and to the industry remains to be seen."