The governor's bill does increase the distance from natural gas wellheads to water wells from 225 feet to 250 feet, but allows for variances to that rule also, she said. Some Marcellus drill pads are large enough that they could cover landowners' water wells and still meet the proposed 250-foot setback.
Archer said the governor's bill also calls for the study of air emissions and the effects of burying drill cuttings and drill mud in onsite pits, but does not fund them. She said state surface owners want the governor's bill to die and have the issue of regulating Marcellus Shale drilling taken up anew during the regular Legislative session.
"The select committee's bill "was already a compromise," said Jim Sconyers of the West Virginia Sierra Club. "Now it is unacceptable. Any bill we would support must contain at least the protections found in the compromise bill."
Among reasons Garvin cited for opposing the governor's draft bill were its removal of public notice and comment provisions for Marcellus permit applications, and eliminating the DEP's authority to deny drilling permits based on "special conditions," like proximity to drinking water supplies, municipalities, natural landmarks or historical sites.
Also cited were the governor's bill's removal of the Office of Air Quality's authority to regulate air emissions at drill sites, its elimination of a requirement to notify adjacent property owners of drilling plans, and its removal of a buffer zone requirement for drilling in the vicinity of streams that don't run all year long.
Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, said the changes made in Tomblin's draft bill ignored the work done by the select committee.
"It's our time to hold the industry accountable," he said.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.