Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marcellus bill awaits House action

The latest update from the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization:

With only a week to go in the 2011 legislative session, time is running out to pass a bill to regulate Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling. On Wednesday, bills regulating Marcellus Shale gas well drilling were up for a final vote in both the House and the Senate, but only the Senate acted. The House decided to forgo further consideration of its bill, HB 2878 – the stronger of the two – in favor of the weaker Senate version, SB 424.

Although the Senate bill has some good provisions, there many good provisions in HB 2878 that we want to see incorporated into SB 424. (See details below.)

If you haven't already, please contact your delegate now and urge them to support SB 424 and any amendments that would strengthen the bill. You can call them toll free at at 1-877-565-3447.

On Thursday, SB 424 was read a first time, then placed on the regular “House Calendar” (described by one statehouse reporter as the “graveyard where bills go to expire in the waning days of a session”) as opposed to the “Special Calendar” (consideration of bills on this calendar have precedence over bills on the regular “House Calendar”). However, as of Friday, the bill was back on “Special Calendar,” and should be on second reading (amendment stage) on Monday.

It is important that your delegates hear from YOU. Please contact your delegates and ask them to pass a strong bill that will protect West Virginia’s environment.

Good Provisions in HB 2878 That Aren't in SB 424:
-Requiring all new oil and gas leases to have language advising the signer to consult with an attorney.
-A pre-survey notice to surface owners that: applies to ALL new wells, not just to horizontal wells; is 30 days in advance of the entry to survey; requires the driller to offer to meet with the surface owner.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be 1000 feet from occupied dwellings and water wells, unless the owner consents, or unless a variance (with conditions) is granted.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be 100 feet from a watercourse, pond, or wetland.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be more than 2500 feet upstream of a surface public water supply, and more than 1000 feet from groundwater public water supply.
-Allowing the state to deny or condition a horizontal “shallow” well permit based on impact to parks, rare habitats, historical sites, bodies of water, etc.
-Requiring horizontal wells to be inspected wells during each phase of cementing, completing and altering before the company can proceed.
-Extending water well testing near horizontal wells from 1000 to 5,500 feet if requested by the water well owner.
-“Local jobs for local workers” provisions.

More on the Senate Action on Marcellus Shale Legislation:
Senator Clark Barnes' (R-Randolph) attempt to strengthen the bill by eliminating the Oil and Gas Inspectors Examining Board. This board gives the industry too much influence over the hiring and firing of oil and gas inspectors. Senator Barnes' amendment would have done away with the board as well as the requirement that inspectors have industry employment history in order to be hired, and allowed DEP to hire oil and gas inspectors the same way they hire other environmental inspectors.

We're not sure if partisan politics got in the way, or if the bill being advanced to third reading with right-to-amend gave industry backers in the Senate an extra day to squelch support for the amendment, but it was defeated. Most Senate Republicans supported the amendment, with a few partisan exceptions that we are aware of, including Senators Dan Foster (D-Kanawha), Ron Miller (D-Greenbrier) and Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson).

Thank you, Senator Barnes!

-- Julie Archer
WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie StreetCharleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891(304) 346-8981 FAX

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