CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chair of the West Virginia House Energy Committee says issues of joint development and co-tenancy for natural gas drilling will have to be addressed later now that the issue has been dropped for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session.

“The House spent quite a bit of time dealing with the cannabis legislation (this week), hours and hours of floor time,” said Delegate Bill Anderson (R-Wood, 08). Timing was one of several concerns so late in the session with many other issues pending.

House Energy Committee Chair Bill Anderson (R-Wood, 08)

The session ends on Saturday at midnight.

“My committee was willing to meet but, as I surveyed the committee and talked to various members, the vote in the committee would have been very close, possibly the bill would have lost.”

The goal of SB 576 was to open up access to more natural gas for drilling.

In general, the joint development aspect of the bill would have modified an existing statute so that natural gas from adjoining properties, those with owners who’ve already agreed to lease mineral rights, could be combined for drilling.

In the latest version of the bill, co-tenancy would have set a threshold of agreement from 75 percent of mineral rights owners for drilling to proceed. The current requirement is 100 percent. Most other states mandate around 50 percent, according to Anderson.

“In many cases, someone reserved mineral rights 100 years ago, it’s passed down three or four generations,” he explained, citing a case where some mineral rights holders had claims of 1/768th ownership for a piece of property.

Anderson and his staff members worked on amendments to potentially isolate the co-tenancy aspect of the bill this session to keep it moving, but dropped those efforts amid growing opposition.

During an appearance on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” though, Anderson was not ruling out future steps to pass the legislation which was originally introduced and proposed to open up access to natural gas in the Marcellus shale and Utica shale.

“We need to show the world out there that deploys capital that West Virginia is truly open for business, we’re willing to modernize some of our laws, but not to the detriment of the citizens who own mineral rights in West Virginia,” he said.

The Senate passed the joint development and co-tenancy bill with a 19-14 vote on March 29 and the House Energy Committee went as far as to hold a public hearing on SB 576 earlier this week.

Back in January, Anne Blankenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, named co-tenancy and joint development as the legislative priorities this session.

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