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Environmental groups, state lawmakers warn budget shortfall hurts WVDEP oil and gas oversight capability

By Mike Tony, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Staff cuts and a budget squeeze at a West Virginia regulatory agency could pose a public health risk, conservation groups and state lawmakers warned Thursday.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas faces a $1.3 million shortfall and is down to a staff of 25 from 40 after the agency committed to slashing its ranks of inspectors and permit writers. A plunge in the number of horizontal-well applications triggered budget cuts.

“In a worst-case scenario, if these wells are not properly inspected and maintained, there’s an explosion risk or other types of bad things can happen to people who live nearby or people who work on these sites,” said Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia.

Joining Hansen at an afternoon news conference were state Sen. William J. Ihlenfeld II, D-Ohio; Dave McMahon, co-founder of the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization; Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition project coordinator Dustin White; and moderator Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

McMahon called for well operators to pay $100 per well per year, which he estimates would raise $6 million — enough to bolster the Office of Oil and Gas and leave some money for addressing abandoned and orphaned wells. Hansen said he has committed to co-sponsor legislation that would implement the fee…

To read more: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/environmental-groups-state-lawmakers-focus-on-budget-shortfall-hurting-dep-oil-and-gas-well-oversight/article_1765e2c1-aa70-5b49-9281-c032b789d8a6.html

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