About the industry/Governor's"Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act" affecting most Marcellus Shale drilling
The "Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act" (HB 401) passed in a special session of the Legislature on December 14, 2011, just 3 days after its introduction. It was totally the Governor's bill, with little reference to our proposed Surface Owners' Bill of Rights or to the bill proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under the Manchin administration.
The Governor's bill was not as good as and bore little semblance to the bill the recommended by the Legislature's Select Committee on Marcellus Shale. At a press conference after the passage of the bill, a lawyer for the industry was thanked for helping to write it! And there are things in it that hurt surface owners that we understand the industry did not even ask for!
We are currently working on updates to our web site to educate surface owners and others about the relevant changes made by the Act, but that work has been delayed by the regular legislative session and some work on the studies and rulemaking that the Act requires. We hope to have these updates available on the website soon. Until then, unless a page says it was updated in 2012, some of the information on this website may not apply to horizontal Marcellus Shale wells.
For now, here is a copy of the Act that we have marked up to show some, but not all, of the changes from current law. We have also prepared a summary of the bill, which outlines the changes most relevant to surface owners. If you are directly affected, call or e-mail us with your questions.
Also, here is a link to the DEP's new Horizontal Drilling Permit page required by the Act.
We do believe the existing common law about driller's rights helps surface owners, though it may take a law suit, and you should read our web page about those rights.
Surface owners and the environment did not get much help from the Act. We intend to continue to pursue our goals through the various studies and rulemaking actions it requires, but mostly through court cases.
The Act does have some small improvements -- mostly in the area of notice before the surveyor and bulldozer show up on your land -- but provides precious little help in negotiating a fair use or value for your land when they come.