Why 4 Months to Approve WV Marcellus Permits?

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Secretary Randy Huffman says it’s taking about four months on average to process a Marcellus Shale gas well permit in WV—which is about three months longer than it should be taking, according to Huffman. Why the delay? Four reasons:

First, the number of applications seeking horizontal well permits has increased significantly over the last three to four years, leaving WVDEP unable to keep up and resulting in a backlog of 239 applications currently pending.

Second, since December, 2011, most of those applications have been filed under the new Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act, W.Va. Code Chapter 22, Article 6A (“Horizontal Well Act”). Both the enhanced application requirements for such wells and new requirements that apply to approvals for ancillary installations under that law have materially increased the review time for those applications.

Third, the WVDEP still does not have the staff that it needs to properly review such permit applications at an appropriate pace and maintain an adequate inspection force for all permitted wells.

Finally, Secretary Huffman noted that in the midst of his agency’s efforts to process a growing number of permit applications (and develop policies and proposed regulations to implement the Horizontal Well Act), the Office of Oil and Gas has been undergoing a legislative performance evaluation audit since February, 2011.*

All of that spells a slow-down. When new staff is hired, the turnaround should approve.

*JD Supra (May 21, 2012) – WVDEP Secretary Addresses Shale Gas Permitting Delays