WV Gov. Tomblin Signs Executive Order 4-11 Creating “Temporary” New Marcellus Shale Drilling Rules

Yesterday, West Virginia Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed Executive Order 4-11 directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to immediately draft and implement temporary new regulations controlling Marcellus Shale drilling in the state. Temporary in this case means the rules will be in place for up to 15 months—until the WV legislature can craft a set of permanent laws. Below is the press release issued by Gov. Tomblin’s office, along with a full copy of EO 4-11.

Gov. Tomblin Press Release

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, joined by West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman, Legislators, and natural gas industry representatives today announced the filing of an executive order that directs the DEP to promulgate additional environmental regulations governing Marcellus Shale drilling activities.

“This executive order is the first step in my long-term plan to ensure responsible development of Marcellus Shale,” Gov. Tomblin said. “The good-paying jobs predicted with this development must include the protection of our public’s health and safety as well as that of our environment. I want to thank our citizens who have voiced their concerns about Marcellus Shale drilling and want to assure them that I recognize this emerging segment of the natural gas industry warrants my immediate attention to ensure responsible development.”

By directing Secretary Huffman to use his existing emergency rule making authority, Gov. Tomblin is calling for additional regulations concerning: water withdrawals, stream and groundwater protection, and public notice.

Executive Order 4-11 outlines several requirements of natural gas companies including but not limited to:

  • Marcellus Shale drilling applicants seeking to drill within the boundaries of a municipality must file a public notice of intent to drill.
  • Surface land use that will disturb 3 or more acres must be certified by and constructed in accordance with plans certified by a registered professional engineer.
  • Companies withdrawing over 210,000 gallons of water a month must file a water management plan with the DEP and adhere to certain specified standards.
    • Before fracking begins, such companies must also provide a list of additives that will be used in the frack fluid, and after fracking is complete, the additives actually used.
  • When using water from a public stream, a company must identify the designated and existing uses of that stream.

“I am pleased that the natural gas industry supports my decision to pursue reasonable environmental regulations to ensure responsible development of the Marcellus Shale,” Gov. Tomblin said. “Regulatory certainty is important not only to the industry, but also to our great citizens.”

The executive order also instructs the DEP to further review the agency’s overall authority over drilling activities related to horizontal wells.

*Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Press Release (Jul 12, 2011) – Executive Order Mandates WV DEP Regulatory Action