Natural gas: A blessing or a curse to West Virginia?

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Apr 28, 2011 in Wrongful Death

Earlier this month, the Marcellus Gas and Manufacturing Development Act became law. The law signals West Virginia's wholesale embrace of the natural gas boom. After all, the Marcellus formation lies under most of the state, and extracting the gas deposits could pump millions, even trillions of dollars into the state's economy. But a series of accidentsons.html">accidents in other states have consumer advocates and environmentalists wondering if lawmakers here didn't move a little too fast.

The legislative findings section of the law presents a laundry list of reasons to move ahead with the drilling, along with recommendations to agencies that they make the development process easier.

The explanation of the state's support of development offers no surprises. First, natural gas will help to free the country from its reliance on foreign oil.

More important, the development of the Marcellus shale "serves the public interest of the citizens of this state by promoting economic development and improving economic opportunities for the citizens of the state." Jobs and businesses will be created throughout the state to manufacture, transmit and transport natural gas and related products. Lawmakers say that this is West Virginia's opportunity to climb out of the cellar of state rankings.

The recommendations to agencies are also clear: Review the applicable rules, coordinate with other agencies, eliminate duplicative regulations and make compliance with every agency's regulatory requirements less burdensome for the industry.

The eagerness to get started is palpable. The law seems to hum with anticipation.

But while lawmakers shout, "Come on, big money," a group of skeptics is trying to get them to temper their enthusiasm with some considerations for the public, the workers and the beautiful countryside.

To be continued.


West Virginia Senate Bill 465, Engrossed Version, 04/blog/11

Huntington, "Projected State Economic Boon not Without Environmental Risks," Tony Rutherford

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