CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Environmental and surface owners' groups gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday to vent their opposition to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's reworking of a House/Senate select committee's bill to regulate Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.
"What we now have is a Christmas tree for the drillers -- it's an industry bill," said Gary Zuckett, director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, after details of the governor's version of a Marcellus bill emerged during the first day of a special session addressing the topic.
"Legislators need to take it back and do it right," Zuckett said. "The whole process was hijacked in closed-door meetings after so much work was done all summer."
"We worked for three years with the DEP and the Legislature to try to develop a respectable regulatory framework," said Don Garvin of the West Virginia Environmental Council. "The bill the select committee came up with did not have everything we wanted, but the governor's bill has nothing we wanted. The Legislature should kill it if its key provisions are not eliminated."
Referring to comments by Tomblin earlier this month that he planned to make a few "tweaks" to the select committee's bill, Carol Warren of the Ohio Valley Environmental Council said bill the governor is proposing "is not a tweak but a hatchet job. He cut out everything that protected citizens."
"The governor's bill is taking us backward," said Julia Archer of the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Association.
Archer said the governor's bill, among other things, removes incentives for drillers to work with landowners on well location sites and access roads. It also allows drilling to take place within 625 feet of a home, and allows for variances to drill even closer.