West Virginia has extensive sets of regulations for gas and oil wells, including even rules for access roads to them. But the pipelines carrying gas away from wells are a different story.
As a story in the News-Register of Wheeling noted, the state seems to have few rules on mapping the locations of some pipelines.
The federal government has requirements on interstate pipelines and both states have some oversight on environmental matters regarding where lines can be placed. But it appears state rules are far less comprehensive than those regarding wells.
One concern is the lack of requirements for maps showing smaller lines, such as those used to gather gas from individual wells. "It's not like inspectors are out there tagging these lines. Companies are just building them," explained Tim Greene of Land and Mineral Management of Appalachia. Greene, formerly a West Virginia oil and gas inspector, added, "I seriously doubt that, 10 years from now, anyone with the state will know where these pipelines are."
It is in the gas companies' interests to have that information, of course. But in case of an emergency - such as a pipeline break that causes an explosion and/or fire - it will be vital for state and local officials to know, too. Minutes or hours wasted in contacting a gas company to obtain information about a pipeline can result in unnecessary property damage - perhaps injuries or even deaths.
State officials have worked hard during the past few years to write and implement extensive rules for the gas and oil industries. It is doubtful any of them want to revisit the controversy that accompanied that process.
But rules for pipelines are important, too. Requirements should be put in place to ensure maps are provided.