Sustained Outrage

Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin speaks to an assembly of state legislators, distinguished guests, and public officials, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in Charleston, W.Va., during the State of the State address. (AP Photo/Howie McCormick)

Acting W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is certainly on the Marcellus Shale bandwagon … but he’s not bought into efforts by his own Department of Environmental Protection to come up with better regulation of the gas drilling industry.

In his State of the State address tonight, Tomblin offered these remarks about the Marcellus Shale, just after his long pledge of allegiance to the state’s coal industry:

West Virginia’s economic future lies not only in its continued use of coal as a resource. Lying just a mile below the surface of much of our State is a rock formation called the Marcellus Shale. This formation is rich in natural gas and new technology and techniques have made access possible for the oil and gas industry.

The development of the Marcellus Shale formation for natural gas production is an economic development opportunity for the State, and we need to embrace it! Billions of dollars of private capital have already been invested in this activity and with it has come many jobs.

Tomblin noted today’s announcement by Dominion Energy that has selected a 56-acre site in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle for the construction of a plant to process natural gas from hundreds of producers tapping the rich Marcellus shale:

This project will allow for significant development opportunities in West Virginia. And it is not only about the production of natural gas. The development of the Marcellus Shale has the potential to restart the manufacturing industry in West Virginia. It is an opportunity that we simply cannot let go by.

WVDEP Secretary Randy Huffman has previously made it clear that his proposal for an entirely new regulatory system for oil and gas drilling — and new permit fees to double the number of state inspectors — is his agency’s proposal, not the acting governor’s bill.

Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy told me this evening:

I was amazed he didn’t mention that DEP has been meeting with many of us over the past several months about the needs they have for more inspectors and better regulations to protect our state. He never even mentioned it. That’s a slight of what I would consider good efforts by DEP to address the problems that we all know exist.