Barely had the ink had time to dry on the first-ever law regulating the Marcellus shale gas industry than one West Virginia legislator was at work this week seeking ways to reform it.
In fact, Del. Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, already has crafted 23 bills - with more likely in the offing - because he thinks the Legislature didn't do enough to safeguard the environment and protect rights of landowners.
"We might be fighting this battle for 10 years," Manypenny said Thursday, after the historic legislation cleared the Legislature and was welcomed with open arms by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
"I don't know. I hope we can get provisions in to protect the surface owners, the environment."
Manypenny was outraged that the Legislature cast aside the proposal worked out over a seven-month span by a 10-member select panel and approved a milder version that critics say was tilted in the direction of industry.
While he heavily criticized the bill on the House floor, Manypenny emphasized he supports the fledgling industry that promises thousands of jobs and a huge revenue stream for the state.
"I think this is the greatest thing that ever happened to West Virginia," the Grafton resident said.
"It's one of the best things for economic development and I'm all for the business succeeding and developing and expanding. But it needs to be held accountable. I think that's one of the problems lacking in the bill. There is more balance for industry, as there always has been."
Manypenny says surface owners may comment on potential environmental harm on their property on the website of the Department of Environmental Protection but can have no say-so on the siting.
And that can lead to some diminished property values, not to mention the inconvenience of spoiled scenery.
"You wind up losing the best part of your pasture or your hayfield, or they may put a road right down the middle of the field, which divides up your land," he says.
"People have had an entire field partitioned off to where they can't access a part of a field."
Water protection is another issue that abides with Manypenny.
Under the new law, an operation must not come within 250 feet of a water well, but Manypenny says a gas well can be set up in the middle of a pad.
"Everybody thinks the issue is migration of fracking fluids, but that's not it," he said.
"There are more surface spills that can contaminate that well more than anything else. We've had these surface spills. One actually was flowback from fracking fluid from the well."
One fresh bill due out in January by Manypenny would require the industry to remediate any fouled water and says it's not unlike a California law that called for remediation when a gasoline additive decades ago seeped into ground water.
"They should remediate anything they contaminate," he said.
Another source of contention with Manypenny is the 625-foot buffer zone between a gas operation and dwellings occupied by people or certain farm animals. Manypenny thinks 1,000 is more reasonable. In Texas, the law calls for 1,500 feet.
"Property owners not only have to deal with potential pollutants, noise, lights, dust and potential spills, we also have to deal with the marketability of real estate," the delegate said.
"If you have a well within a couple of hundred feet of your house, you have no marketability. If you do have marketability, it's a greatly reduced value. I've read in Pennsylvania and Texas, in several instances, where people's property had been devalued 50 to 75 percent. That impacts the county taxes. My bill requires that the industry disclose the potential impact on real estate."
Manypenny says the select committee's version was by no means perfect but was superior to the one Tomblin sent to legislators.
"He didn't change his mind," the delegate said. "He just got hammered by the industry because the industry didn't like it so much."
Manypenny says his legislation shouldn't be interpreted as a blanket condemnation of the Marcellus industry.
"I realize there are some great drillers out there, and they all do everything right," he said.
"But there are bad apples out there. And mistakes happen."