Energy, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House OKs Senate bill making it easier for gas drillers to acquire leases

MORGANTOWN – The House of Delegates made quick work of a bill that will make it easier for oil and gas developers to drill and produce.

SB 650 passed with no debate, other than a few clarifying questions. It strikes a provision of the cotenancy bill passed in 2018 dealing with mineral tracts with more than one owner.

The 2018 bill required that on a property with seven or more owners, a supermajority of 75% of the cotenants must agree to leasing in order to develop the property.

SB 650 removes the requirement that seven or more owners must consent. It preserves the 75% condition.

In questioning on the floor, Energy chair Bill Anderson, R-Wood, explained a few scenarios. One dealt with three owners, one of whom owns 50% of the mineral interests. He said that in that case, the majority owner would not own enough to enter into a lease without consent of the others. It would still require 75%.

Anderson had sponsored a similar bill in the House, HB 4022, but it was decided to move the Senate version.

SB 650 was introduced on Feb. 16 and passed out of Senate Energy the next day with minimal discussion. Committee chair Randy Smith said at the time that all stakeholders met and agreed to remove this requirement.

The Senate passed it 29-5 on Feb. 23 with bipartisan support and opposition.

The House vote was 72-21, again with bipartisan support and opposition.

It now will go to the governor.

Budget bills

The session ends in six days and legislative leaders are again aiming to have a complete budget bill ready for the governor.

On Saturday, the House received the Senate budget bill, SB 250, and read it a first time. The House budget bill, HB 4023, was also read a first time. Both will be on second reading, subject to amendment, on Monday.

As previously reported, in the Senate bill the total budget is $19.2 billion, including federal money. The state General Fund is $4.645 billion, in line with the governor’s proposal and includes the 5% state employee and school personnel raises. It trims just under $9.4 million of the governor’s proposals and adds in the same amount of Senate proposals.

The Legislature typically takes turns sending a final bill to the governor. A Senate spokeswoman said it’s the Senate’s turn this year. That means the House will amend its budget bill into SB 250 and it will then be negotiated into a final product.

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