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Marcellus legislation sends right message

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the Legislature sent a message this week to the petrochemical industry and other job-creators: West Virginia has its act together.

The governor and the Legislature tackled regulations for shale drilling with a view to protecting the environment and the interests of surface landowners.

Balancing the interests of those groups - environmentalists, drillers and surface owners - took some doing. But the state's politicians were up to the task.

Not only did the Legislature pass a bill, it passed it 33-0 in the Senate and 92-5 in the House.

This new law is not perfect - no new law is - but it will be tweaked.

However, the ground rules are established. Businesses need to know what the rules of the game will be, and West Virginia has provided them.

The $10,000 permit fee for a well, plus $5,000 for each additional well on the same pad, will pay for 17

more state well inspectors and permit reviewers in the Department of Environmental Protection.

Applications for drilling permits will be published in legal ads in local newspapers and online. Wells will not be allowed within 625 feet of a house.

Lawmakers staved off pressure from labor unions to require companies to supply detailed records of the state of origin of the people they hire.

By getting the ground rules in place, the Legislature made the state more attractive to all those those who have to decide where to invest their money.

Among the decisions hanging fire is where to build billion-dollar crackers to convert the Marcellus shale gas into feedstock for the petrochemical industry.

The American Chemistry Council said one such cracker could produce 8,000 jobs during construction and 12,000 jobs after it goes into production.

Tomblin drew praise from two political rivals, House Speaker Rick Thompson and Senate President Jeff Kessler, for his leadership on this issue. His 36 years in the Legislature served him and the state well.

The bill was passed in a special session lacking other issues to distract legislators. The administration and legislative leaders had their ducks in a row.

This is the most important economic development legislation since the privatization of workers comp.

The politicians did their jobs. Now it is up to industry to step forward and do its part.

Safely and cleanly, please.

 


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