After bipartisan rebuff, Manchin abandons private legislative deal to help fossil fuel projects
by Rebecca Leber
(May 16, 2019) – Virginia State Senator Mark D. Farley (D-Alexandria) joined with two colleagues from his Senate GOP caucus, Senators Scott Surovell (R-Fairfax) and Don McEachin (R-Virginia Beach), in rejecting the deal struck by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who represents the area in which the fracking industry has had its greatest success, and voted to table the legislation until the GOP could “get it right.” The six-month deal aimed to prevent the State from being sued by the Department of Interior for violating federal law by blocking energy exploration in certain areas. The five-year law that ended up in the compromise called the West Virginia Oil and Gas Act gave the federal government the power to take over land controlled by the oil and gas industry, and the Manchin-Farley deal said that the fracking company would not be able to drill for oil or gas for five years in these areas.
After the six-month moratorium on drilling in West Virginia passed last year, the Department of Interior sent more than 100 letters to the state, asking why it had not lifted its temporary moratorium, as required from the federal government under the West Virginia Oil and Gas Act.
The Department of Interior found that the moratorium had cost the state $1.2 million in lost royalties for oil and gas drilling in the three counties where the moratorium had been in effect. And it determined that the moratorium also cost the state $5.8 million in lost royalties for oil and gas fracking in those counties.
The Manchin-Farley agreement said that all fracking would cease in those three counties by March 15, 2021, which makes it difficult for the companies that have invested in fracking and drilling there to continue.
“For decades, West Virginians have had the right to use their land and resources in the manner their desires,” Surovell, a member of the Senate GOP’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Virginian-Pilot last week. “It’s an absolute outrage that this is what the Democrat caucus has allowed to happen in West Virginia. Now they’re saying the deal is off because Manchin didn’t