Changes are ahead in the natural gas drilling boom in this region of the country, analysts say. And West Virginia may be well-positioned to take advantage of them.
It did not take long after the Legislature adopted a package of new gas drilling regulations earlier this month for the industry to take notice. As we predicted, the new rules may give West Virginia an advantage over other states.
The Marcellus Shale geologic formation underlies parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. But the Keystone State got an early start in capitalizing on the boom. More than 3,000 gas wells already have been drilled there, compared to a few hundred in our state. New York has allowed environmental radicals to stall gas drilling there. And Ohio is just now beginning to consider a new regulatory framework to cope with the drilling boom, while Pennsylvania officials ponder changes.
Because of the new rules in this state, "I think West Virginia will probably be in a situation where there's more certainty," commented Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.
Business people love little as much as regulatory certainty. West Virginia seems to be offering it to gas drillers.
Other factors come into play in determining whether the drilling boom will intensify in the Mountain State, of course. Gas prices are the chief determinant.
Again, however, state legislators may well have given West Virginians an advantage in competing for new gas exploration and drilling. As long as the rules also protect property owners, the environment and residents of areas where drilling takes place, that is a very good thing.