Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

Only One West Virginia Marcellus Bill Remains

A single bill that would change West Virginia's regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling survived crossover day in the West Virginia legislature Wednesday, while two others failed to make it out of the state's House of Delegates.

The Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act (SB 424), which would increase horizontal drilling permit fees to $5,000 from the current $650 that all drillers pay, was sent to the House by a unanimous vote of the Senate.

West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had sought drilling permit fees of $10,000 to help pay for a larger staff to handle about 750 active wells in the state (see Shale Daily, Feb. 11). A Senate committee reduced that amount to $5,000 in SB 424. A House bill (HB 2878) calling for $10,000 fees, which had been considered by the House, failed to survive the session's crossover day, when bills must be passed by each chamber in order to be taken up by the other.

SB 424 would require drillers to give surface owners advance notice of any seismic activity on or near their property, prohibit oil and gas wells from being drilled within 100 feet of water wells, and require drillers to submit detailed water management plans and lists of chemicals to be used in hydraulic fracturing operations. Language that would have allowed forced pooling was previously removed from the bill. The bill is meant to modernize the state's oil and gas regulatory program, according to its sponsors.

An amendment to the bill that would have shifted responsibility for hiring and firing gas inspectors from the Oil and Examining Board to the DEP was voted down by the Senate.

Also failing to make it out of the House was the Marcellus Gas and Manufacturing Development Act (HB 3099), which would have used tax credits and a "Marcellus Shale Permit Fund" to promote the use of alternative use vehicles and encourage the development of oil and gas wells in the state.

The legislature is due to adjourn March 12.

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