November 10, 2011

Special field hearing set to examine potential of Marcellus shale exploration | The Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CHARLESTON — While West Virginia lawmakers seek to piece together the final strands of a Marcellus shale regulatory bill, Sen. Joe Manchin is anchoring a special field hearing Monday to look at the fledgling industry from a federal perspective.

Lawmakers are conducting a rare, early Sunday meeting at the Capitol, hoping to come to terms on four remaining amendments to a bill that has been the target of study for months by a select committee.

Just across town in the federal building, Manchin, D-W.Va., will be leading his first field hearing the following day to examine the potential of Marcellus shale exploration.

“This hearing is an opportunity for West Virginia to demonstrate our unique position of strength in the energy industry, as we are literally sitting on top of the tremendous potential of the Marcellus shale,” the freshman Democrat said in a statement Wednesday. “With the development of this resource, our state has a great opportunity to do two critical things at once — create jobs both now and into the future, and advance our goal of achieving energy independence within this generation.”

Manchin’s office didn’t identify the other panelists but indicated a full list of witnesses would be disclosed later in the week.

Monday’s hearing comes at the start of November interims for state lawmakers, who are caught up in a swirl of activities, not the least of which is the inauguration of Gov.-elect Earl Ray Tomblin and the selection of his successor as president of the state Senate.

Manchin’s hearing will be conducted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is intended to focus on the economic, safety and environmental issues related to Marcellus development.

West Virginia lawmakers couldn’t agree on a regulatory bill back in March on the final day of the 2011 session, but the leadership named a special, 10member committee, which has conducted a number of meetings from spring to fall. A cochairman of the committee indicated this week the panel expects to wrap up its work in the Sunday gathering.

Tomblin has said he would call a special session to deal with the issue, provided lawmakers can produce a bill that is likely to be accepted in both chambers.

By:  Mannix Porterfield