Environmental groups call for gas drilling moratorium - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Environmental groups call for gas drilling moratorium

Posted: Updated:

Ten environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on permits for natural gas drilling in West Virginia until seven conditions are met.

The groups, led by the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, say that there are too many problems regarding regulation of natural gas. The groups said December 2011 legislation seeking to regulate the industry is "grossly inadequate and does not provide the basic protections needed to by West Virginia Citizens."

"We can't let the gas industry wreck more West Virginians' homes and lives," said Jim Sconyers, chairman of the West Virginia Sierra Club. "Too many horror stories are occurring. Natural gas development can be done right. But today, it is being done wrong, and that needs to stop. Right now."

The groups say government has a duty to protect the health and welfare of citizens.

James Martin, chief of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas, did not comment directly on the matter, but he did indicate that current legislation does provide protection from drilling activities.

"I think there's measures in place. Going back to previous legislation, going back to the legislation we passed in December, there's a lot of protections in place," Martin said. "There's good operators out there trying to make those things happen. It's our job to ensure that does take place, and that's what we try to do."

The groups' statement calls for no new permits until DEP inspections of drilling sites are mandatory, tracers are added to fracking fluids, a closed loop wastewater recycling process is mandatory, all hazardous materials are disposed of, local communities are given zoning control, air pollution emissions are monitored, and citizens are offered permanent replacement for a source of clean water.

Phil Reale of the Independent Oil and Gas Association said he does not believe there is any scientific evidence prompting the need for those conditions.

"The legislature, by its actions last year, very carefully reviewed all matters incident to the drilling of horizontal wells in our state," Reale said. "They passed a very comprehensive act and did so with very little opposition. From all indications, the implications of that act have worked."

Reale said current regulation is a collaborative effort of a number of parties to give citizens "some measure of confidence that the industry is adequately regulated."

"Frankly, I think it is," Reale said.

Reale, who glanced over some of the conditions proposed by the group, said there is no "science that justifies any of those things."

He pointed to the economic benefits of midstream and downstream projects of the industry.

"You're looking at, probably combined investments in this state of $10 billion without any incentive from anybody," Reale said. "If this state feels like it can afford to not have that kind of investment and the jobs and commercial investments associated with it that flows from that capital investment, you might have a moratorium. I don't see that happening."

The groups who gathered to present the moratorium request on Sept. 11 were far more skeptical of the safety of the practice.  

"Fracking is science without consequence, short sighted, bloated on greed, its executors revealing the essence of cognitive dissonance," said Cyla Allison, president of Eight Rivers Council and a Pocahontas County resident. 

The groups point to examples of problems they've observed in Doddridge County, including air pollution and explosions at well sites.

"The Friends of the Cacapon River support the protection of the water, land and air across the state of West Virginia," said Linda Kjeldgaar of Friends of the Cacapon River. "Without adequate regulation, we feel that the most precious natural resources are at risk of being lost to future generations. Proper regulation of the natural gas industry is the duty of our state."

Signatories included Sierra Club, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Environmental Council, Friends of the Cacapon River, Christians for the Mountains, Eight Rivers Council, Greenbrier River Water Association, SavetheWaterTable.Org, Coal River Mountain Watch and West Virginians for a Moratorium on Marcellus. The statement was given to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and other legislators during this week's interim meetings.

"We hope you will agree that our water and the very air we breathe deserve better protection than is now available," the statement reads. "Too many permits have been issued without adequate safeguards, and the safety of our citizens must be the top priority of the state of West Virginia." 

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WVSTATE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.