Threats posed by gas drilling require comprehensive legislation
A coalition of environmental and public interest groups staged concurrent press events today in Morgantown and Charleston, West Virginia, demanding speedy action by the state’s Legislature in providing citizens with strong protection from the effects of shale gas drilling operations.
“The Select Committee appointed in June has failed to reach any agreement on the issues, and therefore no Special Session has been called,“ said Jim Sconyers of the WV Sierra Club. “Yet permits continue to be issued. Our air, land, and water need immediate protection.”
Participating organizations, including WV Citizen Action Group, WV Highlands Conservancy, Upper Mon River Association, and Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition are unanimous in agreement that the Governor’s Executive Order requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate emergency rules does not address a majority of the critical issues. Health concerns, trucks overturning on narrow roads, fears about the capacity of streams used for local water supplies, serious concern about declining property values, and landowners at the mercy of unilateral industry decisions are some of the urgent issues that must be addressed.
“The Legislature is the only body that can ensure the rights of surface owners, and authorize adequate funding for the DEP,” stated Julie Archer of WV Surface Owners Rights Organization. “We desperately need comprehensive regulations for this industry. Comprehensive regulations require enforcement if they are to be effective, and we don’t have enough inspectors to do the job.”
Candace Jordan of West Virginia for a Moratorium on Marcellus commented, “We are no closer to having adequate regulations for Marcellus shale gas drilling than we were last March at the end of the 2011 Session. If the Legislature is unable to agree upon and deliver broad regulation, DEP needs to stop issuing permits.”
The organizations called upon the members of the Select Committee and the Legislature as a whole to devote immediate time and energy to passing a comprehensive package of regulations that will protect the environment, people’s health, landowner rights, and property values, and ensure a strong DEP enforcement team.
Leslee McCarty of the WV Environmental Council noted the lack of activity by the Senate members of the Select Committee and the fact that more than one of them has connections with the gas industry. “Senator Doug Facemire has been quoted as saying he has a business to run, and isn’t available to meet with the Select Committee. I hope his constituents will consider his behavior at election time. For him to cite his own business needs and to neglect the business of the state on an issue of such tremendous importance to our citizens is inexcusable.”
“It’s very simple,” said Carol Warren of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “We want the Legislature to do its job and give West Virginians the protection they deserve. Our health, our homes, and our well-being should come first.”
For more information contact:
Julie Archer, WV Citizen Action Group, Charleston WV, 304-346-5891
Jim Sconyers, WV Sierra Club, Morgantown WV, 304-698-9628
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