The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 18, 2011

Kessler selects senators for Marcellus shale panel

CHARLESTON — Half of a select, 10-member panel eyeing a compromise on the controversial Marcellus shale regulatory legislation was identified Friday, and acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler says the panel can get started once the other five are appointed.

There was no word from House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, on just when he intends to pick his five members.

But Kessler suggested one likely candidate is Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, since the failed legislation in the Legislature’s last regular session passed through his committee.

“His committee was working on it pretty feverishly at the end,” Kessler, D-Marshall, said.

Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he would devote a special session this summer to getting the fledgling industry regulated, provided the two chambers can come to terms on a bill.

Kessler named Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton, since he handled natural gas measures for the Senate Industry, Energy and Mining Committee last winter, and Sen. Orphy Klempa, D-Ohio, because much of the Marcellus exploration is anticipated in his district.

Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, chairs the Senate IEM committee, but Kessler emphasized he has worked almost exclusively on coal matters.

A third selection was Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, given his work on the Senate version of the bill, and Kessler said he chose Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, for her work in the chemical alliance zone and stated desire to be on the select committee.

Rounding out the Senate membership is Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, in consideration of his role as judiciary chairman, Kessler said.

Thompson and Kessler decided to set up the committee in this week’s interims after the two chambers couldn’t produce a bill for the governor to consider before the end of the regular session.

“I think we put out a pretty good product the last time,” Kessler said.

“Perfect? Perhaps not, but it certainly was a significant start. I’m open to any suggestions that may come out of the House.”

Since the House failed to send out a bill, there was no opportunity in the final hours of the session to get one into a conference committee, Kessler noted.

“Hopefully, the select committee can fulfill the role of perhaps a conference committee where they almost look at versions of the bill,” he said.

“They know what we passed and were capable of passing and see what the House was working on at least up through the last minute. Hopefully, they will have a pretty good headstart. Hopefully, they’ll put some folks on it who are familiar with the product they were working on.”

Kessler said the committee could get to work right away, using a telephone conference call without the need to actually sit down at a table at the Capitol.

The Senate leader said he thinks the panel can produce an agreed-to bill so that Tomblin can put it on the agenda in a session, since one is needed to deal with redistricting.

“I remain optimistic that (compromise) will happen,” he added.

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