Stuart Gruskin, former deputy commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said his state decided to "think first and drill later." New York is finalizing a three-year study of modern drilling techniques to determine their impacts and come up with rules to limit them. There isn't a formal moratorium on permits, but New York law delays new drilling projects while the study is being performed.
"We wanted to address the impacts before we started drilling," Gruskin said.
Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said West Virginia officials never really considered stopping new permits while it came up with better regulatory tools.
"We felt like we could use the existing rules to regulate this," Huffman said. "We've managed to get by."
The number of Marcellus drilling permits issued by his state agency has gone from none in 2006 to about 500 this year. Those permits are more complicated, as are inspections of these wells. But DEP has not yet seen increased staffing or other resources to go with the increased workload.
Huffman said his organization is working to implement new emergency rules on some aspects of drilling, but that the agency isn't tackling issues like impacts on local roads, and isn't sure other things -- like buffer zones from homes -- are really environmental issues for DEP to manage.
Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said a committee he leads is trying to finalize legislation that would protect the public and the environment, but also foster growth in the industry.
"We're trying to find that happy medium," he said.
But Manchin said that he's been amazed at industry opposition to an amendment to require gas companies to report payroll information that would show what share of their workers are from local communities or from out of state.
"It seems like the industry is just dead set against it, and I just don't understand why," Manchin said. "I think these are things the people of West Virginia have a right to know."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.