Yesterday, the West Virginia Senate Energy, Industry and Mining committee passed SB448, which provides funding to the Office of Oil and Gas (O&G) to increase the number of well inspectors. A similar bill, HB 3110, will be taken up tomorrow, February 2, in the House Energy and Manufacturing committee.
Currently, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Office of Oil and Gas only has ten inspectors responsible for over 75,000 wells. This bill would double the funding for this office and increase inspector numbers from 10 to around 20. It also allocates 0.75% of the O&G severance tax to the Office of Oil and Gas and adds annual fees depending on the amount produced and the class of wells.
While this is a good first step to addressing the inspector crisis, with 20 inspectors, West Virginia would still have around 4,200 wells per inspector, putting it far behind neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, with 1,730 and 2,240 wells per inspector, respectively.
These inspectors are crucial to protecting both our public health and our environment.
A 2018 study by Princeton and McGill university showed that active conventional wells across West Virginia leak methane. The release of methane, which traps 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, contributes to accelerating climate change and exacerbates the risks of significant floods and power outages in West Virginia. In addition, the release of methane is accompanied by other air pollutants that can cause cancer, asthma, and premature birth.
Please contact the Senate Finance Committee regarding SB448, and the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee, regarding HB3110. The message: Please bring West Virginia in line with our neighbors in Pennsylvania and Ohio to fully staff the WV DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas inspectors to help ensure proper enforcement of regulations and safeguard public health.