WVDEP Hires New Oil and Gas Employees

by Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC

One of the provisions of the West Virginia Horizontal Well Control Act passed in December 2011 increased the permit fees for horizontal wells from $400 to $10,000. At the time this legislation was under consideration, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman told the legislature that the increased permit fee would allow him to nearly double the Inspection and Enforcement staff within the Office of Oil and Gas, which at that time numbered 17. To learn about the progress WVDEP has made in ramping up staffing within the Office of Oil and Gas I contacted James Martin, Chief of OOG, and Kathy Cosco, WVDEP’s Chief Communications Officer, who provided us with the following information:

The OOG has undergone some considerable restructuring following the passage of the Horizontal Well Act in December 2011. The Office has hired 8 additional staff members in the Inspection and Enforcement section, which has already begun helping the state meet the demands of regulating a growing industry. The I&E Section has been reorganized so that it now has 30 FTEs, which is nearly double the 17 it had at this time in 2011. 

The Office now has 15 FTEs in the Permitting Section, including a professional engineer to review the site design and construction plans. In addition, some of the inspectors who were with the agency prior to the passage of the act were promoted to either Inspector Specialists or Inspector Supervisors, and some people transferred from other divisions within the agency to come work for the Office of Oil and Gas.

The following employees have joined the Inspection and Enforcement section of the Office of Oil and Gas.

Jeremy James, from Elkview is an inspector who covers Cabell, Mingo and Wayne Counties. Prior to coming to the DEP, James has more than five years of experience working for drilling companies in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Larry Board, from Craigsville, WV, serves on the enforcement side in responding to complaints from around the state. He attended University of Kentucky Southeast Community College and has more than 17 years of experience overseeing projects for engineering companies in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Darrell Murphy is from Chloe, WV. He has more than 15 years field experience from working with oil and gas companies in West Virginia and nearly two years of experience working for a pipeline company in South Carolina. Like Board, his coverage area is state-wide.

Gayne Knitowski is from Gormania, WV, and is a graduate of WVU. He has experience in pipeline installation and maintenance, stream crossing and wetland conservation that he performed for companies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  As an inspector, he will cover Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties.

Carl McCune, from Parkersburg is a graduate of Glenville State College and is responsible for inspecting drilling activities in the Marshall County area. McCune brings with him an extensive background in the oil industry from a number of states, including West Virginia.

The newest inspector to join the staff is Doug Newlon of MacFarlan, WV. Newton will be assigned to Doddridge County. He comes to the DEP with more than a decade of extensive experience in the various phases of the drilling process from construction to completion to reclamation.

Back at the DEP headquarters, Jackie Thornton, who is from Hurricane and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science, focuses her time on the mitigation of issues associated with spills, slips and issues associated with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  She comes to the DEP from the Division of Highways.

And finally, Dana Burns, of Mammoth, WV, is a secretary in I & E and responds to Freedom of Information Act Requests and serves as support to the field staff. She has several degrees from West Virginia Tech and transferred to the DEP from the Tax Department, where she was a senior auditing clerk responsible for oil and gas producers and operators' returns.

An organizational chart showing the full complement of OOG staff as of this writing can be found here.

We extend our thanks to Kathy and Marty for providing us with this information. If we learn more regarding the Office of Oil and Gas staffing efforts, we will provide updates to IOGA members.

For more information, please contact:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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