Among the significant changes in the governor's bill, compared to the legislation proposed by the Marcellus Shale committee:
* Public input: The committee bill required public notices be published for new drilling applications, and allowed Department of Environmental Protection to hold public hearings at the agency's discretion. The governor's bill requires DEP to set up a website and an e-mail notification system for permit applications, but does not mandate notices in local newspapers or allow DEP to hold public hearings.
* Denying permit: The governor's bill eliminated language that would have allowed DEP to deny permits based on concerns about proximity to water supplies, municipalities and densely populated areas, impact on water tables, public resources and natural landmarks.
* Drilling pits: The governor's bill allows drilling pits, with drill cuttings and other associated drilling wastes, to be buried on site -- rather than removed for proper disposal elsewhere.
* Permit fees: The committee bill allowed the DEP to enact future permit fee changes through rulemaking, rather than an act of the Legislature. The governor removed that language.
* Surface owner rights: The governor's bill on horizontal wells removes a declaration that the rights of surface owners are equal to those of mineral owners.
* Well casings: Many specifics about the specifications for well casings -- a key to preventing water pollution -- will be set by DEP under the governor's bill, rather than spelled out in legislation, as the committee had proposed.
* Study of state regulations: The governor's bill removes language from the committee that would have sought an updated and independent study of West Virginia's regulation of the natural gas industry.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.