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Marcellus Issues in West Virginia: An Introduction

Regulatory Framework

The regulatory framework (except for air emissions) is almost entirely lacking on the federal level because of exemptions given to the oil and gas industry by the EPA. This leaves states to create their own regulatory framework.

West Virginia's laws for oil and gas activities are found primarily in §22-6 of the state code. For horizontal wells recently passed code is found in §22-6A.

The West Virginia Office of Oil and Gas (part of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection) writes regulations for industry based on the code and are approved by the legislature. Current regulations in force now are:

35CSR1 -- Miscellaneous Water Pollution Control Rules
35CSR2 -- Oil and Gas Operations – Solid Waste Rule
35CSR3 -- Coalbed Methane Wells Rule
35CSR4 -- Oil and Gas Wells and Other Wells
35CSR5 -- Designation of Future Use and Inactive Status for Oil and Gas Rule
35CSR6 -- Abandoned Wells Rule
35CSR7 -- Certification of Gas Wells
35CSR8 -- Rules Governing Horizontal Well Development

Additional regulations include 47CSR2 (water quality) and 47CSR13 (UIC wells).

Download a flyer from the 2013 Gas Well Workshop that discusses the code and rules.

A 2012 Legislative Audit of the Office of Oil and Gas found serious deficits in its enforcement when it came to abandoned wells. These deficits are also found in other areas of enforcement not covered by the audit.

West Virginia's regulations show a heavy bias towards meeting industry's rather than citizen's needs. A recent study by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project found similar problems in other states.

Another problem with the state's regulatory program is that requirements for operators are dispersed through regulations, general permits and documents such as the West Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Field Manual. For example, the general permit allows burial of solid pit waste on a well site but doesn't require special treatment of the waste (a memorandum deals with Marcellus waste) or the depth at which it is to be buried (found in the Erosion and Sediment Control Field Manual). The Office of Oil and Gas has no general handbook which gathers state requirements for operators like neighboring states' agencies have created.


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