Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced today that he will issue a proclamation calling the members of the Legislature into special session, beginning at 5 p.m., Sunday, December 11, 2011.
"We have the opportunity to pass landmark legislation that will be a significant step forward in the development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia. I believe we can complete the legislation next week," Gov. Tomblin said. "I want to express my sincere appreciation to the legislative interim committee for their hard work in crafting a piece of legislation. Over the past weeks we have consulted with and sought the input of all stakeholders at this monumental juncture in our state's history.
"As we move into this special Legislative session, I want to thank President Kessler and Speaker Thompson and their leadership teams for their efforts over the past weeks on this legislation. Working with Legislative leaders, I believe we now have sufficient consensus on a piece of legislation that is in the best interest of West Virginia. We look forward to working with the Legislature to pass legislation next week."
The highlight provisions of the special session legislation include:
* Accepting the interim committee's recommended permit fee structure of $10,000 for the first well and $5,000 for subsequent wells. This will enable more qualified inspectors to be on the ground enforcing necessary regulations and more permit reviewers to evaluate more permits in a more timely fashion.
* Requirements that operators obtain an agreement with the West Virginia Division of Highways to maintain and repair roads affected by drilling.
* Standards designed to protect the state's water resources including private wells, streams, and wetland areas.
* Additional rights to surface owners where the drilling is expected to occur.
* Well location restrictions, including the setback from occupied dwellings of 625 feet, as recommended by the Legislature.
"In drafting this Legislation, my office has had one key goal in mind: protecting the environment while providing clear rules to the natural gas industry so that they may continue to develop job opportunities and invest in West Virginia," Gov. Tomblin said.