Read more about the bill at: http://blogs.wvgazette.com/watchdog/
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In legislation proposed for this week's special session, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin removed or weakened a special committee's proposals for public input on natural gas drilling permits, protection of drinking water supplies and mandated standards for well casings.
Tomblin also eliminated language calling for an independent review of West Virginia's regulations on Marcellus Shale drilling, and added provisions that could hamper surface landowners in their dealings with drilling operators.
Those are among the more significant changes Tomblin's office made in reducing to 99 pages the 121-page bill lawmakers on a joint committee spent nearly 10 months crafting.
Industry officials are supporting the Tomblin-backed legislation, saying it provides them with clarity and certainty for what West Virginia's regulatory requirements will be as companies seek to tap into the Marcellus Shale reserves.
"We will recover this resource responsibly," Zack Arnold, West Virginia operations manager for Chesapeake Energy, told a public hearing Monday evening. "Our industry is committed to environmental excellence."
Tomblin said this bill is "landmark legislation that will be a significant step forward in the development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia."
"In drafting this legislation, my office has had one key goal in mind: Protecting the environment while providing clear rules to the natural gas industry so that they may continue to develop job opportunities and invest in West Virginia," Tomblin said in announcing the special session late last week.
But changes Tomblin made in the legislation left key citizen groups that had pushed for the special session -- the West Virginia Environmental Council and the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization -- both opposing the bill, and urging lawmakers to just start over in next year's regular session.
"We had several problems with the bill recommended by the Select Committee on Marcellus Shale," the surface owners' group said in a statement. "The governor's bill is MUCH worse and has way too many problems to begin to fix in a special session."