(08/23/2007)
HISTORY LESSON: "OPEN FOR BUSINESS" HAS MEANT GROSS POVERTY IN WEST VIRGINIA - Hur Herald

By Bob Weaver

Independent gas producer Alvin Engelke (left) of Creston, said the royalty bill before a special session of the legislature "Was everything Chesapeake Energy and Gov. Manchin wanted."

Engelke, who attended Monday's legislative hearing at the mouth of the Elk, said that Gov. Manchin's spin that the intention of the bill was to clarify the issues is "Perfect BS," particularly when he said it was not retroactive.

The bill, which was halted in its tracks, was described as too complicated for consideration by legislators during the special session.

Engelke said the bill was loaded with lots of side issues besides allowing the deduction of production charges from royalty payments, such as coal tax severance changes, deep well definitions and spacing of wells.

"There was even a section regarding taxation on coal-bed methane which would help the state's tax coffers," he said, showing the bill had balance. Engelke said the coal-bed severance tax should be a stand-alone issue.

"If this bill passes, it even takes the right away to go to court with these companies. Sounds unconstitutional!" he said.

Manchin told legislators he didn't think the bill was too controversial, not expecting the uproar.

Engelke said the governor had promised the producers at a meeting last winter he would support and see the bill through.

"The Independent Oil and Gas Association is in lock-step with the big boys," he said.

Chesapeake Energy is reportedly scheduled to drill 220 wells in Roane County next year, making it difficult for small producers since delivery systems are already operating at full tilt, limiting access.

Despite what Gov. Manchin said, the bill would very likely set aside the $404 million judgment in the Tawney case, Engelke said.

Engelke concluded by saying "I'm not in agreement with carrying Chesapeake's water."


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