Friday, June 25, 2010

Marcellus Shale drilling sites are piling up too fast for West Virginia agency to keep inspected

Most of the focus of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling has been on New York and Pennsylvania, but now the West Virginia Department of Environmental Regulation says the number of gas wells being permitted in the state's portion of the formation is growing faster than the agency's ability to keep pace. DEP records show "the number of permits issued for unconventional drilling operations more than tripled between 2007 and 2009, but the number of inspectors increased by only one," Vicki Smith of The Associated Press reports.

Four more inspectors are on the payroll this year, but DEP Secretary Randy Huffman "acknowledges 18 people are not enough to handle not only more than 1,000 new Marcellus wells, but also tens of thousands of traditional, shallow gas wells," Smith writes. "We simply do not have the number of people necessary to do the job," Huffman told AP. "It's easy to issue a permit. What I think we're doing is issuing permits faster than we have the ability to keep up with them on the ground." The DEP plans a "comprehensive, top-down look" at its Division of Oil and Gas within the next few months to present to Gov. Joe Manchin in November.

"Any rush to judgment would be a mistake," Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, told AP. "It's not like there's some tremendously critical issue out there that should be driving this. I think everyone concerned will be better off if we take our time and do it right as opposed to reacting quickly." Burd called the DEP's timeline for the agency review "very aggressive." (Read more)

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