The West Virginia legislature overwhelmingly approved a landmark Marcellus Shale regulatory reform bill on Wednesday, opening a new chapter for natural gas development in the state.

The House of Delegates passed HB 401 — also known as the Natural Gas Horizontal Wells Control Act — by a 92-5 vote on Wednesday morning after nearly two hours of debate on the House floor. The bill then went to the Senate, which passed it without discussion, 33-0.

“We may not agree on all points, but this bill accomplishes many great things,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said during a press conference Wednesday. “This legislation provides reasonable regulations to protect the environment and has also opened the door to new job opportunities for our citizens.” The governor had called the legislature into special session Sunday to consider the bill.

The House Judiciary Committee attached two amendments to HB 401 on Tuesday, followed by seven additional amendments from the House floor on Wednesday.

Under HB 401, natural gas operators will pay a $10,000 permitting fee for the first well drilled on a pad, and $5,000 for each additional well. Tomblin said the fees would generate $2.4 million annually for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to use for hiring additional field inspectors and permit reviewers.

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