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Two West Virginia DEP Studies on Gas Drilling Still Delayed

Randy Huffman, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), reportedly defended the agency’s tardiness in finalizing two natural gas drilling studies that were due at the end of 2012, as mandated by the 2011 Horizontal Well Act, during a presentation to the West Virginia Legislature on February 21, 2013.  “I made the decision to be late rather than turning in something we wouldn’t be proud of,” Huffman said.  The two late studies include an investigation of the safety of pits and impoundments and the evaluation of noise, light and dust generated by the drilling of horizontal wells as they relate to the Horizontal Well Act’s setback requirements.  Earlier this year, Secretary Huffman said he hoped to complete a report for the impoundment study by mid-February, but at the time did not offer an estimated completion date for the noise, light and dust study.  DEP noted in the February 21st presentation to the legislature that the logistical demands involved with completing the studies were overwhelming in light of the statutory deadline.  “We have taken a lot of time with these studies to try to be as scientific and comprehensive as we could,” Huffman said.  A third DEP study examining air pollution from oil and gas operations is due on July 1, 2013.