"People are worried and one of the ways you allay those concerns is that you have staff available," Fleischauer said. "We've tried to craft a bipartisan solution and I think we've achieved a pretty good balance."
Jacqueline Proctor, communications director for Tomblin, said the governor and his staff still need to study the interim committee's bill "to determine what aspects of the proposed bill can be agreed upon and what changes are needed" before deciding on whether to call a special session.
Don Garvin, lead lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council, said that his organization is "guarded" in its support for the committee's bill.
Garvin said citizen groups want to see the bill improved with the addition of a permitting system for withdrawing water from state streams, regulations governing how drillers conduct seismic tests at potential drills sites, and tougher requirements for disposal of drilling pit wastes.
"Are there changes we'd like to see? Of course," Garvin said. "We would be OK with it, but we would still work to improve it."
Corky DeMarco, lobbyist for the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said his group remains strongly concerned about parts of the bill, especially the increase in permit fees that he said would "put nails in the coffin," as West Virginia drillers try to edge out other states for a share of the natural gas market.
"We don't want to make ourselves less competitive," DeMarco said.
West Virginia business and political leaders have for several years been promoting a potential boom in Marcellus Shale gas drilling, saying it would provide a huge economic boost to the state.
But environmental groups have warned about impacts, and the state Department of Environmental Protection has agreed it needs more staff and tougher rules to regulate new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques that involve much larger operations and more complex permits. Surface landowners from around the state have also told horror stories about having their property invaded and damaged by drilling operations. And new studies are questioning whether natural gas really has the greenhouse gas advantages over coal that have frequently been cited in the past.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.