By JOSELYN KING
CHARLESTON - West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler told Senate members Thursday to be in Charleston Sunday afternoon, as a special session for Marcellus Shale legislation is imminent.
State lawmakers already are scheduled to be in Charleston for their regular interim sessions Monday through Wednesday.
"It's nothing formal, and there's been no call yet," Kessler, D-Marshall, said. "But in my discussions yesterday with the governor ... I was assured a special session would be called.
"It's been tentatively set for Sunday evening, and there's a significant likelihood it will happen," he added.
Kessler said discussions regarding Marcellus Shale legislation actually took place for two hours Tuesday night at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport. Staff members for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin flew in to meet with Kessler, as did Sen. Douglas Facemire, D-Braxton, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee.
"Sticking points" still exist, Kessler acknowledged, and this is the reason there has been some delay in calling for the special session. Some parties are calling for the establishment of "reporting mechanisms" that detail how many local residents are being employed by drilling companies and what effect drilling is having on the state's economy, he said.
"That's the way draft is done, and we're looking for some middle ground," he said. "If there are existing reporting requirements already, I don't know why we can't use them. We are looking for ways to collect meaningful data without putting hardship on employers."
Kessler said discussions with "stakeholders" are ongoing, and that there will be some tweaking to bills passed out of committee last month.
Among the stakeholders are members of the environmental community, state officials, employees with the West Virginia Division of Highways and owners of surface rights and mineral rights, as well as city and county officials, he said.