CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to regulate Marcellus Shale gas well drilling (SB4001, HB401) drew the wrath of environmental and landowners groups, and reluctant acceptance from the oil and gas industry during the legislative special session Monday.
By day's end, the Senate's version of the bill (SB4001) had advanced through the Judiciary and Finance committees, and will be on amendment stage on the Senate floor this morning, where it likely will be up for a passage vote later today.
That puts pressure on the House of Delegates -- where Marcellus Shale legislation died at the end of the 2011 regular session -- which takes up the special session bill for a first time today.
Earlier Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its draft of the bill, after a 4 1/2-hour marathon meeting. Committee members made minor amendments to the bill, primarily expanding timelines for drilling companies to notify landowners.
Monday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee quickly approved the bill without amendment.
Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said there was consensus on the fiscal side of the bill, including provisions to increase permit fees up to $10,000.
"There had been extensive work in Judiciary Committee on the policy part of it," he said. "I don't think any of our members wanted to open up the policy part again."
In the Judiciary Committee meeting, and later in a public hearing in House chambers, environmentalists and landowners' rights advocates denounced the governor's bill for diluting industry regulations proposed last month by a House-Senate select committee, which had worked through the summer and fall to draft Marcellus Shale regulations.
"We feel the governor's bill falls short," Don Garvin, with the West Virginia Environmental Council, told lawmakers. "These are huge operations that affect a lot more than the surface tract that's being disturbed."
Garvin later Monday urged members of the House to insert the provisions of the select committee bill into the governor's bill when the House Judiciary Committee takes up the legislation this morning.
Dave McMahon, with the West Virginia Surface Owners Association, contended that the administration bill favors oil and gas operators at the detriment of landowners, who could have massive Marcellus Shale drilling pads within two football fields of their homes.