Lawsuit on the Horizon for WV’s New Marcellus Law?

Please see an important update at the end of this article.

West Virginia’s new Marcellus drilling law is not yet a week old (see this MDN story for a summary of what’s in the new law), and already some who are unhappy with the law are talking lawsuit. The Charleston, WV Rotary Club hosted a luncheon at the Civic Center on Monday with a panel discussion presenting four different viewpoints on the new law. None of the four, who included those who favor drilling and those who don’t, were happy with the final version. But one in particular, Dave McMahon, a Charleston public interest lawyer, is threatening to sue over the new law.

Dave McMahon, a Charleston public interest lawyer, represents West Virginia property owners who do not own the mineral rights under their property. The value of their properties could be threatened by a Marcellus Shale drilling project near their homes.

McMahon also worries about environmental problems, such as chemical-polluted drilling water contaminating creeks and water sources.

"The bill the governor introduced was an industry bill. Never in my life have I been left out of the process so much."

The noise generated by hydrofracking drilling projects, McMahon said, will mean some "people can’t sleep at night."

"We don’t like the bill at all. It was the industry’s bill. We are going to have to go to court to challenge it."*

IMPORTANT UPDATE (Dec 20, 2011): MDN was contacted the same day this article was posted by a reporter who spoke directly with Charleston attorney Dave McMahon today. Mr. McMahon says that he was misquoted in the Charleston Gazette article (quoted by MDN above) and that he is not threatening a lawsuit against the newly passed Marcellus drilling law in West Virginia. Mr. McMahon recalls saying yesterday that he will go to court to try to win new rights for surface owners—in fact, he’s helping to litigate at least two such cases right now. He did not say he is going to court to challenge the new law. MDN thanks Charleston Daily Mail reporter Ry Rivard for setting the record straight.

*The Charleston Gazette (Dec 19, 2011) – Panel discusses pros, cons of new Marcellus law