WV Gov. Tomblin to Unveil New “Emergency” Fracking Rules Today

West Virginia Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will release new “emergency rules” today at 2 pm that direct the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to tighten controls on Marcellus drilling, in particular hydraulic fracturing.

The release of the rules comes amid mounting pressure on the government to do more to regulate drillers.

The rules, which Tomblin will detail at a 2 p.m. press conference, are expected to give more authority to the Department of Environmental Protection and deal mostly with water quality issues related to producing gas from the state’s Marcellus shale field.

Tomblin’s rules are expected to require companies to disclose what chemicals they put in the frack fluid. The rules are also expected to make companies dispose of the fluid at a qualified site when they are done using it and make sure the underground well casings companies construct to produce gas from are stable.

Full details about the rules could not be obtained Monday.

Although the rules will be binding on drillers in WV, the rules will not be laws—they are just directives and policies.

But without the approval of the Legislature, there’s only so much the DEP can do on its own.

Corky Demarco, spokesman for the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, which represents large gas companies, said the agency can’t raise permit fees, change public notice requirements or redefine terms in the law.

But Demarco said it was a good idea to have some regulations in place now to give some "certainty" to the industry.

"I think a good idea is probably to go down both tracks," he said.

The DEP also can’t do more to protect the interests of property owners who don’t own the gas rights under their land, a vocal and increasingly litigious group that has objected to having little or no say as large well sites are being placed on their property.*

*Charleston Daily Mail (Jul 12, 2011) – Tomblin to unveil emergency fracking rules