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West Virginia Lawmakers Form Marcellus Panel

State lawmakers in West Virginia have created a bipartisan 10-member panel to discuss and seek a consensus over Marcellus Shale regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, early indications are that Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin may call a special session of the West Virginia Legislature sometime this summer to discuss redistricting, but Marcellus issues might not be on the agenda.

Sen. Douglas Facemire (D-Braxton) told NGI's Shale Daily that he has been asked to chair the panel, informally called the Marcellus Study Subcommittee, by Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler (D-Marshall). The subcommittee idea was formed during a meeting Wednesday of the Interim Joint Committee on Government and Finance (IJCGF).

"It's going to be my goal to bring the industry people, the landowners and the environmental community together and sit down and try to iron out something that we could live with," Facemire said Wednesday, adding that the subcommittee's meetings would be open to the public. "Our goal would be to have a bill come out that all three parties could support, and if they do getting it passed in the legislature will not be a problem.

"We need to allow these boys to go to work. We need the jobs and we need the energy. Like any other mineral extracting, if we set the proper rules and guidelines we can manage this."

Facemire said the subcommittee would be composed of five senators and five members of the House of Delegates. He said a decision on the political makeup of the subcommittee was still undecided but said the Senate contingent would probably have one or two Republicans.

"This is not a party line issue in the Senate," Facemire said of the Marcellus. "The citizens have clearly spoken that they want regulations on this, and it should be regulated. From there is where is starts to get complicated."

Sen. Karen Facemyer (R-Jackson), an IJCGF member, concurred.

"We need to look at the Marcellus and make sure we don't over regulate it," Facemyer told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "It's a major industry for our state, no different than coal and gas is now. For example, we're working very closely on attracting an [ethane] cracker right now and have about six different companies looking to do that here."

Jacqueline Proctor, spokeswoman for Tomblin's office, told NGI's Shale Daily that a special session on redistricting could be called sometime around August.

"In relation to the Marcellus, [the governor] still says, has said, and continues to say, that if there is an agreement regarding that among the legislature he will call a special session for that," Proctor said Wednesday. "There are interim committees where I would assume they are communicating about this matter, especially in the districts where this is a very hot topic."

Asked if Marcellus Shale regulatory reform would be discussed in January if a special session is not called before then, Proctor said, "It's hard to tell but I would think so if it's still something that has to be resolved or discussed further."

Dee Spelock, a spokeswoman with the legislature's public information office, told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday that there has been "no official word" on a special session or what would be on the agenda, which she said would be set by the governor.

Del. Tom Azinger (R-Wood) told NGI's Shale Daily that he was "almost certain" Tomblin would call a special session toward the end of the summer to redraw legislative and congressional districts following the 2010 Census. But he added that he was skeptical Marcellus Shale would be on the agenda, or call.

"I don't think they will put Marcellus Shale on the call because it might take a long time to hammer out a bill that's acceptable to everyone," Azinger said Wednesday. "I wish they would get it worked out because that's such a big item for the state. We need to get it done, but I don't it will be on the call."

Azinger said a special session on redistricting would take no longer than a week to complete. He added that politics might play a role in keeping Marcellus Shale off the call for a special session.

"The governor determines what you bring up," Azinger said. "Marcellus Shale is not an easy subject to deal with. You would have to convince him that time is of the essence to get it done, but I don't think he's going to deal with it before the [gubernatorial] election in October. I have a feeling he'll bring it up afterward, in the regular session in January."

The next 60-day regular session of the legislature is scheduled to begin on Jan. 11, 2012 and conclude on March 10, 2012. The legislature adjourned sine die on March 18.

Del. Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) also said it was "likely" that a special session would be called over redistricting, but added she was hopeful the panel created Wednesday would ultimately be successful in flushing out a special session on Marcellus Shale, too.

"I hope the governor will add the topic of Marcellus Shale regulation to the special session," Fleischauer told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "Like redistricting, it does not make sense to have the legislature vote on Marcellus Shale regulation unless there is agreement."

Monongalia County, the City of Morgantown and West Virginia University's Faculty Senate are among several localities that have all called for a special session on Marcellus Shale regulatory reform (see Shale Daily, June 15).

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