More than a dozen bills related to natural gas and drilling practices were introduced in the first hours of the West Virginia Legislature's 2014 session, which convened in Charleston Wednesday.
Bills already introduced include SB 38, which would reallocate 3% of the state's oil and gas severance tax revenues up to $20 million annually to oil- and gas-producing counties and municipalities.
West Virginia Senate President Jeffrey Kessler (D-Marshall) has said he plans to introduce a bill, possibly in the form of a constitutional amendment, during the 2014 legislative session to create a Future Fund using a portion of the state's oil and gas severance taxes (see Shale Daily, Sept. 18, 2013).
Several bills to be considered during the 2014 session could affect drillers in the state. HB 2064 would require drillers or owners of natural gas wells that contaminate groundwater aquifers "to remediate the aquifer until it meets the standards of the Clean Water Act."
Others would require flowback plans for all work on oil and gas wells (HB 2152); require an emergency, temporary and permanent water supply when gas and oil operations result in contamination, diminution or interruption of water supply (HB 2254); require the center of all new gas wells to be more than 1,000 feet from water wells or 625 feet from the edge of well pads (HB 2258); prohibit horizontal oil and gas drilling beneath abandoned wells (HB 2260); require natural gas well operators and surface owners to enter into surface user agreements (HB 2262); and require natural gas lessors to provide surface owners the ability to purchase gas from their wells (HB 2998).
A long list of legislation that targeted the natural gas industry failed to receive enough support from West Virginia lawmakers at the close of the 2013 session (see Shale Daily, April 17, 2013). Chief among the failed bills was SB 167, a proposal to set a baseline to collect Marcellus Shale oil and gas severance taxes and to establish a West Virginia Future Fund, which the legislature could draw up to 25% of the proceeds from for various appropriations. Legislators in 2013 did not consider raising the state's severance taxes on oil and gas, which currently stands at 5% of gross receipts (see Shale Daily, Jan. 23, 2013).