Sustained Outrage

Well site during active drilling to the Marcelllus Shale formation in Upshur County, West Virginia, in 2008. Photo copyright West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization.

Gazette statehouse reporter Alison Knezevich reports this morning that West Virginia lawmakers are significantly scaling back any efforts to regulate the boom in Marcellus gas drilling across the state. As Alison explained:

The House Judiciary Committee cut a more than 200-page bill on Marcellus issues down to 33 pages. The Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Committee whittled 180 pages down to about 60.

The pending bills (HB2878, SB424) address permit fees, environmental regulations, and protections for property owners, among other topics related to the state’s natural gas boom.

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said the House bill was “narrowed down to the issues we could really agree on with the so-called stakeholders.”

Alison also reported:

On the House floor Thursday morning, Delegate Barbara Fleischauer read her colleagues a news report from Washington County, Pa., where three workers were injured Wednesday night in a fiery explosion at a Chesapeake Energy drilling site.

The Monongalia County Democrat urged them to pass legislation that would fund inspectors and protect the environment and workers.

“We don’t have to ask permission from the gas companies to protect the public,” she said. “That’s not our job. Our job is to protect the public.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers are putting on the fast track another piece of legislation, HB3099, giving tax breaks aimed at encouraging spin-off businesses related to Marcellus drilling.

One of the more interesting things about this bill is the Fiscal Note, which projects the legislation won’t cost the state a cent — because it doesn’t examine how much the potential tax breaks would amount to, instead focusing only on this:

Although this legislation contains several incentives designed to attract energy related industries as well as promote the use of alternative fuel supplies , it does not have any specific effects on the cost operations of the Development Office or the Division of Energy.