Morrisey: Beware of bureaucrats

WHEELING – Whether trying to regulate coal mining or natural gas drilling, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is often out of bounds.

“We think that states are best equipped to regulate oil and natural gas drilling,” Morrisey said Thursday at West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association conference at Oglebay Park. “You don’t want to allow bureaucrats in the EPA to take the law into their own hands.”

Morrisey told the oil and natural gas drillers they are important in advancing West Virginia’s future, so he pledged his support for their cause.

“The Office of the Attorney General can play a vital role in helping the West Virginia economy reach its potential,” he said.

In July, Tyler County Prosecutor D. Luke Furbee requested an opinion from Morrisey regarding whether the county could accept a private donation to digitize its property records to deal with overcrowding problems at the courthouse. Morrisey said this would not be a problem as long as the donation is unsolicited and is given to the county as a whole, rather than to an individual.

“As long as you provide equal access, you can accept the donation,” he said Thursday.

Morrisey, a Republican, said he tries to work with attorneys general from states that border West Virginia to create a larger block of power to combat oppressive regulations. However, he admits having more success with some states than with others.

After holding numerous townhall-style meetings throughout the Mountain State since taking office in January, Morrisey said it is clear that drug abuse is an epidemic that is costing the state economic development.

Also speaking during the conference Thursday was Erin Magee, an attorney with Jackson Kelly who specializes in labor and employee relations. She said “the federal Department of Labor has its eyes on the oil and gas industry.”

Magee said one of the issues under federal scrutiny is the classification of a true employee compared to a “contract employee.” She said some companies have not properly classified their workers, leaving themselves open for investigation.

“If you’ve got an independent contractor and an employee working side by side, doing the same job, then you’ve probably got an issue,” she said.

Also during the conference, WVONGA members voted for Kevin Ellis, manager for administrative and legal for Antero Resources, to become the association’s new president. He follows the outgoing Robert Orndorff of Dominion Resources.