West Virginia lawmakers enacted the historic Marcellus shale regulatory bill Wednesday, making only minor tuneups in the proposal sent to them by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in this special session.
Delegates added seven changes before passing the bill 92-7, after a two-hour floor discussion, and the Senate promptly accepted them without debate on a 33-0 tally.
The bill provides a 625-foot buffer zone between drilling operations and structures occupied by humans and agriculture livestock, calls for a study of potential pollution, protects cavernous regions, raises fees for initial wells to $10,000 and calls for a study of jobs created by the promising industry.
Marcellus shale runs from West Virginia to New York and is viewed as a major economic bonanza.
The bill came under fire from environmental and landowner groups as too feeble to protect them, while one of the five who voted against it in the House — Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, saw it as burdensome to industry.
Even with passage, some lawmakers suggested Marcellus shale likely will surface again at the Capitol.
Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, served notice he has prepared 20 bills for the 2012 session.
And Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, likewise expects to see the issue return.
“We haven’t seen the last of Marcellus shale,” Caputo said.
“Nor should we.’
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Story will be updated...For more, see Thursday's Register-Herald.