Northern Appalachian natural gas production lags considerably behind the ramp up in the Rocky Mountains, but West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise said that he is pushing for his state to one day compete head-to-head with Wyoming. Wise spoke Tuesday in Charleston, WV as keynote for the Conference on Natural Gas from Coal Seams in the Northern Appalachian Basin.

So far this year, West Virginia regulators have issued between 85 and 100 permits to drill gas wells into the state’s coal seams. “In that same period of time, our sister state of Wyoming will have permitted 8,500 gas wells drilled into the coal in the Powder River Basin.,” Wise said. “This region radically lags other regions in the country for development” despite its potential, but eventually, he believes the Appalachian region will “match” the gas production level in Wyoming.

He also urged conference delegates to consider dropping the popular name of “coal bed methane,” or CBM, to what it is: natural gas. “Natural gas whose source is coal now counts for 7% of total natural gas usage in the United States — an increase from 0% twenty years ago, Wise said. “Because this is now an important part of the total U.S. energy mix, the industry needs to move away from using its confusing short-hand term, ‘coal bed methane.’ The public understands the term, ‘natural gas’ because they use it every day.” In West Virginia, said Wise, “we are calling this resource ‘natural gas’ and identifying its source rock as coal seams.”

He also promised that West Virginia regulators would be “extremely cooperative” for developing the coal seams into natural gas. “We want to work with you,” he said to the Charleston audience. “We have a permitting process that I think you will find extremely cooperative. We have rewritten the book on being cooperative on permitting.”

In the United States, most CBM is produced in the Rocky Mountain states. Three states, New Mexico, Colorado and Alabama, hold 75% of the proven reserves. However, the Department of Energy (DOE) lists the Appalachian region as an “emerging market.” In August, Wise appointed an energy task force whose goal is to make the state a top CBM producer. “We have vast reserves of coal bed methane,” Wise said. “We want you to be looking to invest in West Virginia.”

The conference was co-sponsored by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), along with the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To view all of the presentations online, visit the IOGCC web site at

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