Sometimes the West Virginia Legislature is just plain puzzling. Take the matter of regulations for oil and gas drilling: After two months of debate, lawmakers failed to approve a package of new mandates.
Blame disagreements over strict rules favored by some environmentalists clashing with well-founded concern about regulations that could hamper the fast-growing gas industry in our state.
But the Legislature also failed to provide more money for the Department of Environmental Protection to enforce regulations. The DEP has only about 17 inspectors to handle thousands of oil and gas wells. It can't even ensure compliance with existing rules.
It would be one thing if money for new inspectors had been contained in the comprehensive bill that failed because of disagreements over the strength of new regulations. But leaders in the Legislature apparently spotted that weakness and thought they had dealt with it. Another bill, this one providing incentives for gas-related development, included $2 million for new DEP inspectors.
The incentives bill passed both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Before it did, however, the $2 million for inspectors was amended out of the measure. Again, now the DEP is left with an inspection force insufficient to guarantee compliance with existing rules.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wants lawmakers to amend the budget bill they are working on this week to include money for additional DEP inspectors. He is absolutely - and clearly - right.
Will legislators comply with his suggestion? Unfortunately, based on their actions recently, that is a question. It should not be; lawmakers should provide the money.