Sustained Outrage

WVDEP wants to double oil and gas staff

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has what amounts to a final draft of its proposed new oil and gas drilling legislation, and I’m told that Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed off on the package.

The bill won’t be a governor’s bill, but Tomblin has given WVDEP the OK to seek its own sponsor and to work toward passage when lawmakers come to town next week for the start of the session. (See previous posts about the upcoming debate on oil and gas drilling legislation here, here and here).

Chief among the WVDEP’s hopes for the bill — which I’ve posted here — is approval of a new special fee on horizontal wells that would provide enough money for the agency to double the size of its oil and gas office staff.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said yesterday:

We’ve got to have these people and to do that we’ve got to have money.

Some readers may recall that WVDEP’s small inspection staff for drilling operations — just 18 inspectors statewide — drew the attention last year of the ongoing investigation of oil and gas issues by ProPublica.

Under Huffman’s proposal, WVDEP would add 34 people to its oil and gas office’s current staff of 32, including doubling the number of inspectors to 36.