WHEELING - Each of West Virginia's 12 natural gas inspectors is now responsible for overseeing an average of 4,917 wells. State House Majority Whip Mike Caputo believes this is unrealistic, especially with the number of wells at 59,000 and counting.
With the full state Legislature set to convene Wednesday, Caputo, D-Marion, and several others hope to pass a bill that would increase the fee for drilling a single gas well from about $600 to $15,000, thus allowing the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to hire more inspectors with the extra funding. Caputo acknowledged the DEP currently has positions for 17 inspectors, but said there are only 12 actually in the field now.
As the Marcellus Shale rush continues to grow throughout West Virginia, especially in the Northern Panhandle, state leaders are recognizing that new drilling regulations are needed.
Photo by Casey Junkins
As Chesapeake Energy continues to drill for natural gas in Ohio County, the West Virginia Legislature is nowconsidering regulations for Marcellus Shale activity.
Although the Legislature's joint Judiciary Subcommittee did not endorse the legislative proposal it forwarded to the joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary for that body's consideration, Caputo said the subcommittee's failure to endorse the legislation was due to the issue's sensitive nature.
"This lets the folks who are opposed to the bill see that we are still willing to work on this," Caputo said, noting he serves as co-chairman of the subcommittee.
Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, is listed as the current co-chairman of the full committee.
He expects his group to advance the bill for consideration during the regular session upon looking at it today.
In addition to the $15,000 to drill a new well, gas companies would need to pay $10,000 to modify the permit and $5,000 annually to renew it. Other highlights of the bill include provisions for: