On August 22, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) filed an emergency rule to increase oversight of horizontal drilling of natural gas wells. The emergency rule adds additional permit and operational requirements focused on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." If a permit applicant disturbs more than three acres of land, the applicant must submit an erosion and sediment control plan and a site construction plan. If an operator will be using more than 210,000 gallons of water during a one-month period, the applicant must also include a water management plan with its permit application. The water management plan must include information on the type of water source, the anticipated volume of each water withdrawal, the plan for its management and disposal, and a listing of all fracking additives. Operational requirements include well casing requirements, notification requirements, and information gathering requirements for all water used in connection with fracking activities. In addition, operators must issue public notice in a newspaper at least 30 days prior to drilling at a well pad for the first time.
This emergency rule follows Executive Order No. 4-11, issued by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on July 12, which directed the WVDEP to issue rules on horizontal drilling. This is merely considered a stop-gap measure by both the Governor and the WVDEP, who plan to work with the legislature toward a "comprehensive approach." The rule will become effective upon approval by the Secretary of State and remain in effect for 15 months.