West Virginia oil and gas laws can be found in Chapter 22 of West Virginia Code. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 22C-9-1, the main purposes of the statute are as follows:
- To foster, encourage, and promote exploration for and development, production, utilization and conservation of oil and gas resources;
- Prohibit waste of oil and gas resources and unnecessary surface loss of oil and gas and their constituents;
- Encourage the maximum recovery of oil and gas; and
- Safeguard, protect, and enforce the correlative rights of operators and royalty owners in a pool of oil or gas to the end that each such operator and royalty owner may obtain his just and equitable share of production from such pool of oil or gas.
Powers and Jurisdiction of the Commission
Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 22C-9-4, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is composed of five members. The Director of the Division of Environmental Protection and the Chief of the Office of Oil and Gas should be members of the commission ex officio. The remaining three members of the commission are appointed by the Governor.
The commission has jurisdiction and authority over all persons and property necessary. The commission is authorized to make such investigation of records and facilities as the commission deems proper. In the event of a conflict between the duty to prevent waste and the duty to protect correlative rights, the commission’s duty to prevent waste will be paramount[i].
Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 22C-9-4(f), the commission has specific authority to:
- Regulate the spacing of deep wells;
- Make and enforce reasonable rules and orders reasonably necessary to prevent waste, protect correlative rights, govern the practice and procedure before the commission and otherwise administer the provisions of this article;
- Issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and subpoenas duces tecum for the production of any books, records, maps, charts, diagrams and other pertinent documents, and administer oaths and affirmations to such witnesses,
- Serve as technical advisor regarding oil and gas to the legislature, its members and committees, to the Chief of Office of Oil and Gas, to the Division of Environmental Protection and to any other agency of state government having responsibility related to the oil and gas industry.
- Whenever it appears to the commission that any person has been or is violating or is about to violate any provision of this article, the commission may apply in the name of the State to the circuit court of the county in which the violations or any part has occurred, or the judge in vacation, for an injunction against such person and any other persons involved[ii].
- Upon application by the commission, the circuit courts of this State may by mandatory or prohibitory injunction compel compliance with the provisions of the statute. The court may issue a temporary injunction in any case pending a decision on the merits of any application filed.
- The judgment of the circuit court upon any application permitted by the provisions of the statute will be final unless reversed, vacated or modified on appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 22C-9-11, any party adversely affected by an order of the commission is entitled to judicial review. Legal counsel and services for the commission in all appeal proceedings in any circuit court and the Supreme Court of Appeals will be provided by the Attorney General or the Attorney General’s assistants and in any circuit court by the prosecuting attorney of the county as well, all without additional compensation. The commission, with the written approval of the Attorney General, may employ special counsel to represent the commission at any such appeal proceedings.
Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 22C-9-14, any person who violates any provision of the statute, or any of the reasonable rules promulgated by the commission or any order or any final decision of the commission will be guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, such a person will be fined up to one thousand dollars. Each day that a violation continues will constitute a new and separate violation.
Any person who makes any false entry or statement in a report required under the provisions of the statute, or who omits from any such record, account or memorandum, full, true and correct entries, or removes from the state or destroy, mutilate, alter or falsify any such record, account or memorandum, will be guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, such a person will be fined up to five thousand dollars, or imprisoned in the county jail not more than six months, or both fined and imprisoned[iii].
[i] W. Va. Code § 22C-9-4(e).
[ii] W. Va. Code § 22C-9-12.
[iii] W. Va. Code § 22C-9-14.