The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection filed an emergency rule on August 22 that will impact natural gas extraction from the Marcellus shale.
Companies engaged in horizontal drilling activities in the Marcellus shale will now be required to submit a sediment and erosion control plan, site construction plan and a well site safety plan with their work permit applications. These rules will affect applications for sites that involve three or more acres of surface area.
The rule will go into effect after its approval by the Secretary of State and will remain in effect for 15 months.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said that the development of West Virginia's natural gas resources is important for the state but added that safety was also a concern.
"Still, we must work hard to make sure our efforts to capitalize on opportunities such as the Marcellus Shale are regulated responsibly and done in ways that protect our citizens and the environment," he said in a statement.
Shale gas – such as that found in the Marcellus formation – has played an increasingly important role in America's natural gas production. The Washington Post reports that it now accounts for almost 30 percent of the natural gas produced in America, compared to less than 2 percent in 2001.