EDITORIAL: Why Maloney's Fumble on Marcellus Drilling Matters

Marcellus Shale in WV
Marcellus Shale in WV

In Sunday's Morgantown Dominion Post, a front page story shows how important it is for the Governor and legislature to clearly define the laws on the books when it comes to drilling the Marcellus Shale natural gas supply in West Virginia.  When GOP Governor's candidate Bill Maloney provided mere "talking points" rather than informed analysis of that subject last week, he showed that he is not ready for the job he seeks.

As we noted last week, Maloney's black and white response to the topic of drilling for the Marcellus Shale natural gas was telling for all who heard it.  Here was a fellow who had spent his professional life in drilling.  But now that he was a Governor's candidate, could he show some concern for those private property owners who also have a serious vested interest in this issue?

No, Maloney simply said that no other regulations were needed on the books.  He just wanted to drill.

But as the story in Sunday's Dominion Post illustrates, there are already court battles developing, in large part due to the lack of good law on the books that should lay out the rights of private property owners.  We might add that good drilling companies have agreed that clear, coherent laws regarding such drilling and private property owners' rights are needed.  That way the drilling companies know that ours is a state that is worth a sound investment in when it comes to drilling the Marcellus Shale. With good laws on the books, fewer lawsuits will result.  Everyone will know how to play the game.

So if private property owners are demanding that their rights be set forth clearly...and if even good drilling firms agree...then why in the world did Bill Maloney, former drilling company owner and now GOP candidate for Governor, say that everything was just fine and that no other regulations were needed--even to protect West Virginia property owners from getting ripped off?

Possible answers include:

A.  Maloney simply doesn't care about private property rights.

B.  Maloney was pandering to those in-state drilling companies who might want to give a donation to his campaign.

C.  Maloney knows some out-of-state drilling companies who want to come into West Virginia soon.

D.  Maloney was tired and didn't know what he was saying, which would explain why he changed his tune 24 hours later.

We're going to give Bill Maloney the benefit of the doubt and just go with "D."  More than likely, the poor fellow  was tired from campaigning that day and just didn't think that hard about it. But Maloney's knee-jerk responses to extraordinarily important public policy issues demonstrates to us that he is simply not ready for the tough job of Governor.

Think about it:  West Virginians in the Marcellus Shale regions of the state have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collect some needed money for their children's college funds, their retirement, or any number of other worthy projects.   The natural gas found on their lands is extremely important for the future of their families.  Plus, the windfall to the state might allow us to better maintain our highways and schools.  This issue is too important to mess up, so we need to think through all the angles first.

State Senator Clark Barnes (R-Elkins), another GOP candidate for Governor, has clearly given this issue a great deal of study.  He will candidly state up front that he wants more drilling to continue as well.  But he is careful to state that we simply must get our ducks in a row when it comes to the laws on the books that protect the interests of our private property owners first.

Barnes is right.   Too many times in the past, West Virginia property owners have been given a token amount for the value of their minerals.  Let's not allow the worst kind of out-of-state drilling companies to come in and rip us off the way many out-of-state coal and oil companies have done in the past.

The Marcellus Shale natural gas discovery can be a win-win for everyone involved--but only if we have a Governor who is not so biased in favor of the out-of-state drilling companies that he forgets the rights of his own citizens.


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