Published Tue, Dec 13, 2011 5:00 am Dateline
Updated Tue, Dec 13, 2011 11:32 am
Update 11:35 am
New rules for Marcellus shale drilling have made it halfway through West Virginia's Legislature.
The Senate passed the bill Tuesday to the House of Delegates, 33-0 with one member absent.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin began the special legislative session on Sunday.
The goal is a bill that regulates drilling and development in the Marcellus shale field. It's considered among the world's richest natural gas reserves.
The Senate and its Judiciary Committee amended several provisions. Some aim to improve the prior notification of well development. Others exempt certain wells from at least some proposed regulations.
The House Judiciary Committee expects to take up the bill Tuesday.
A Monday public hearing drew dozens of speakers.
Environmental and surface owner groups say it lacks protections. Industry representatives also presented concerns, but urged support.
West Virginia lawmakers are advancing proposed Marcellus shale drilling rules that appear unpopular with key players.
The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the regulatory bill Monday. But it first amended the measure after fielding criticisms from those involved in this vast natural gas reserve.
Environmental and surface owner groups say it fails in several major areas. Those include notifying the public before drilling, buffer zones around gas wells and property owner rights.
Industry representatives outlined major problems as well.
They oppose the $10,000 and $5,000 permit fees, and say the buffer zones are too large. But they're supporting the bill because it resolves uncertainty surrounding Marcellus operations.
Monday's bill goes to the Senate Finance Committee. The House Judiciary Committee will meanwhile hold a Monday afternoon public hearing for the measure.