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West Virginia Bill Would Allow Landfills to Take Drilling Waste

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will likely call a special session of the state legislature to introduce a bill regulating the disposal of drill cuttings and associated drilling waste into commercial landfills, after lawmakers failed to passed the measure before adjourning on Saturday.

Two bills, HB 4411 and SB 474, call for amending Article 15 of the Solid Waste Management Act. It would allow commercial landfills located outside the state's karst region -- essentially the Panhandle and the northwest part of the state -- to "lawfully receive drill cuttings and drilling waste generated from horizontal well sites" above the facility's monthly tonnage limits, so long as the cuttings and waste are placed in a separate, dedicated cell.

HB 4411 would limit permission for accepting the drilling waste to the commercial landfills that applied for permits to do so before Dec. 31, 2013. The landfills would not have to count any deposited drilling waste toward the facility's permitted monthly tonnage limits until Sept. 30, and would be forbidden to turn away any amount of municipal solid waste within its permitted tonnage while it accepts drilling waste.

Under the proposal, radiation monitors would be required at the landfills by Jan. 1, 2015. By that date the secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would also submit a report to two legislative bodies -- the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on Water Resources and the Joint Committee on Government and Finance -- examining leaching from landfills for the presence of heavy metals, petroleum related chemicals, barium, chlorides, radium and radon. The DEP would also study the potential negative impacts on surface water and groundwater, and would conduct a feasibility study for establishing additional disposal locations.

HB 4411 also calls for the state treasury to establish a "Gas Field Highway Repair and Horizontal Waste Study Fund," which would be administered by the state Division of Highways, to identify roads "damaged by trucks and other traffic associated with horizontal well drilling sites or the disposal of waste generated by such sites." Up to $750,000 from the fund would also be made available to the DEP to conduct the aforementioned studies, and a $1-per-ton solid waste assessment fee would be levied for the disposal of the drilling waste.

"We have learned a lot by looking at what was done in Pennsylvania and looking at the problems they were having," Sen. Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson) told the Associated Press, which also reported that Tomblin would call a special session.

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