CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A special legislative committee on Wednesday approved a Marcellus Shale drilling bill and asked Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to call lawmakers into special session to take up the measure.
The joint House-Senate panel passed the bill on a voice vote, with only Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, asking to be recorded as opposing it.
"We may not have a perfect bill, but we've worked hard to come up with a good bill," said Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, and co-chairman of the committee.
The fate of the bill remains unclear. Tomblin says he still needs to be sure there's a consensus behind it and at least one industry lobbyist says his group has major concerns about the proposed language.
Since a bill to more strictly regulate drilling in West Virginia's vast Marcellus Shale reserves died during the regular session in March, Manchin and Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, have led monthly joint committee meetings trying to come up with an acceptable bill.
Significant provisions of the bill would set new standards for gas well casings, increase permit fees to help add more state inspectors, establish a 625-foot buffer zone between wells and homes, require public notice of permit applications and force companies to disclose how many of the jobs created by the drilling boom go to West Virginians.
Facemyer said the legislation goes too far, sends a message that West Virginia is anti-business and needs to be slowed down so lawmakers can look at it more carefully during next year's regular session.
"We need to take our time and make sure we do this right," Facemyer said.
But Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said further delays could put off the date for getting additional Department of Environmental Protection inspectors until sometime in 2013.