CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he has signed a regulatory package governing large-scale drilling for natural gas in West Virginia's Marcellus Shale deposit.Tomblin said the bill he signed Thursday is "a milestone piece of legislation.'' It was passed after a four-day special legislative session earlier this month.The regulatory package will require hefty permit fees, buffer zones around wells and advance notices to property owners and the public.The mile-deep Marcellus deposit is among the world's most promising natural gas reserves.
Tapping it, however, can involve horizontally drilled wells as well as the hydraulic fracturing of the shale with water mixed with chemicals and sand. This process has spurred concerns about the fluid seeping into water supplies and about the large volumes of water it requires.