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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

W.Va. Official Signs Emergency Marcellus Rule

- W.Va. Official Signs Emergency Marcellus Rule

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
by Mannix Porterfield, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.

While legislators toil on something permanent and vastly more comprehensive, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant signed an emergency rule Monday regulating Marcellus shale natural gas.

Two specific meetings are planned during Sept. 12-14 interims by a select panel formed by the Joint Committee on Government and Finance, and a co-chairman says he expects to see the final amendments put to a vote.

Legislation bogged down in the final night of the regular session March 13, but acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently produced an emergency rule that Tennant said didn't reach her office until about a week ago.

"I am disappointed this matter took so long to resolve," the secretary said after signing the rule.

"This is a huge development opportunity that would diversify West Virginia's economy that has to be done promptly and responsibly."

If the Legislature fails to provide a permanent rule within 15 months, the emergency rules will expire under state law.

Tennant had 42 days to approve or deny the filing by the Department of Environmental Protection and said she signed it in the belief there should be no further delay for the industry. The DEP is scheduled to file a permanent rule Sept. 8, allowing a 30-day public comment period. All comments are to be posted on the secretary of state's Web site.

"I recognize there will be differing opinions about this rule, but I remind all those concerned that I can legally only approve the filing of the emergency rule or leave the process regulated in its current manner," she said.

Marcellus shale was put on the back burner this month in back-to-back special sessions, giving the Legislature an opportunity to smooth out legal obstacles in a controversial House of Delegates redistricting plan.

A co-chairman of the select panel, Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, expects at least 13 amendments to be debated when members convene Sept. 12 and again two days later during next month's interims session.

"I'm confident we can probably finish this up in our September interims and have it ready to go back to our respective bodies and see if we can sell it to them," Facemire said in a recent interview.

Facemire said the panel is focusing on three major goals in seeking a workable piece of legislation -- protecting the environment, safeguarding the rights of surface owners, and giving the fledgling industry room in which to operate.

(c)2011 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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