§22-21-1. Declaration of public policy; legislative findings.

(a) The Legislature hereby declares and finds that the venting of coalbed methane from mine areas and degasification of coal seams has been and continues to be approved by the state for the purpose of ensuring the safe recovery of coal; that the value of coal is far greater than the value of coalbed methane and any development of the coalbed methane should be undertaken in such a way as to protect and preserve coal for future safe mining and maximum recovery of the coal; that subject to the above declarations and findings, commercial recovery and marketing of coalbed methane should in some cases be facilitated because the energy needs of this state and the United States indicate that the fullest practical recovery of both coal and coalbed methane should be encouraged; that the Energy Policy Act of 1992 was enacted in part to encourage coalbed methane development and the state of West Virginia should enact legislation which carries out the purposes of said act; that in order to encourage and ensure the fullest practical recovery of coal and coalbed methane in this state and to further ensure the safe recovery of both natural resources, it is in the public interest to enact this article authorizing coalbed methane well permits, regulating the design of coalbed methane wells and recovery techniques, authorizing coalbed methane well units and pooling of interests therein to provide all coalbed methane operators and coalbed methane owners with an opportunity to recover their just and equitable share of production.

(b) It is hereby declared to be the public policy of this state and in the public interest to:

(1) Preserve coal seams for future safe mining; facilitate the expeditious, safe evacuation of coalbed methane from the coalbeds of this state, and maintain the ability and absolute right of coal operators at all times to vent coalbed methane from mine areas;

(2) Foster, encourage and promote the commercial development of this state's coalbed methane by establishing procedures for issuing permits and forming drilling units for coalbed methane wells without adversely affecting the safety of mining or the mineability of coal seams;

(3) Safeguard, protect and enforce the correlative rights of coalbed methane well operators and coalbed methane owners in a pool of coalbed methane to the end that each such operator and owner may obtain his or her just and equitable share of production from coalbed methane recovered and marketed under this article;

(4) Safeguard and protect the mineability of coal during the removal of coalbed methane, as permitted under this article;

(5) Create a state permitting procedure and authority to provide for and facilitate coalbed methane development as encouraged by the Energy Policy Act of 1992; and

(6) Seek the deletion of the state of West Virginia from the list of affected states by the secretary of the United States department of the interior as provided for in the Energy Policy Act of 1992.