House Bill 2074 was introduced on February 10, 2021, with the stated purposed of implementing the recommendations of studies which were required 10 years ago by the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act. The bill would take a step toward bringing more information and protections to landowners affected by the massive oil and gas drilling well pad sites, which continue to be drilled and operated in West Virginia.
The proposal would require continuous, real-time monitoring of air, noise, dust and particulates from well sites. It would also set noise limit standards and would further seek to limit artificial illumination from flares or other light sources on any resident or livestock. It would also require the limits of disturbance of an oil and gas well pad to be located at least 1,500 feet from any occupied dwelling or large structures housing dairy cattle or poultry. An operator, though, may be allowed to build closer if, through professional engineering studies, it could demonstrate the well work activity would not violate any of the other air, noise or dust requirements otherwise provided in the new code section.
The bill actually has bi-partisan sponsorship with the lead sponsor being a Republican delegate from Preston County. These legal changes would provide a better framework for landowners as to what to expect from drilling operations that many of them never asked for. It would provide a framework to hold irresponsible well drills responsible.
Unfortunately, similar bills have been suggested in past sessions and HB 2074 has now been double referenced to first the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee and then the Judiciary Committee. This bill will have a difficult time making it through its committees and will likely not make to the full floor of the House, let alone pass for consideration in the Senate.
I would encourage those of us who live in oil and gas producing regions to reach out to your delegates and encourage the passage of House Bill 2074.