We the undersigned unanimously agree that the Executive Order issued by acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is inadequate and leaves communities vulnerable, while continuing to let the gas industry run roughshod over West Virginia.
The Senate should not be using the Executive Order as an excuse for stalling. Instead, the Senate should impose a moratorium on permits until a comprehensive bill becomes effective.
Many people, including Senate members of the Select Committee on Marcellus Shale, are under the illusion that the Executive Order and the resulting emergency rules are adequate enough to ensure safe, responsible development of the Marcellus Shale.
However, a number of important issues remain unaddressed.
- Nothing in the Executive Order addresses protection from air pollution, noise, truck traffic destroying roads, radiation, or the cumulative impact of multiple wells in a community.
- While the Executive Order does require public notice of well permits inside a municipality, it does not provide an opportunity for the public to comment on such permits and influence the permit conditions, nor does it require public notice and comment for well permits in rural areas.
- Surface owners remain at risk from unilateral decisions by the gas companies. There is no requirement for drillers to negotiate with surface owners on the location of well sites and access roads or that drillers accommodate surface owners’ concerns, plans for or uses of their property.
Other items missing from the Executive Order include:
- Protection for karst (limestone) areas.
- Protection for parks or other public lands.
- A TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) standard for water.
- Elimination of the industry-influenced Oil and Gas Inspectors Examining Board in favor of a civil service type of hiring procedure.
- Protective/adequate distances between large drill sites and homes, schools, hospitals and other sensitive places.
- Expanded water well testing requirements.
- Improvements to bonding requirements.
- Disposal of toxic waste from well sites restricted to landfills designed to accept hazardous waste.
Additionally, regulations are only as good as their enforcement and with only 15 inspectors for 59,000 active gas wells, we remain concerned about the DEP’s ability to adequately protect citizens and the environment from the threats Marcellus development poses to human health and our land, air and water. Unfortunately, the emergency rules filed as a result of the Executive Order will not raise permit fees and will not provide money for more inspectors to enforce even those emergency rules.
DEP has already permitted 1,602 Marcellus wells in West Virginia. Of those, 942 of those are completed and producing and the agency is on track to issue another 400 permits this year.
We believe it is irresponsible for the acting Governor and the Legislature to allow the DEP to continue to issue new permits without having a comprehensive regulatory structure in place and without having enough inspectors on staff to ensure adequate enforcement. We appreciate that acting Governor Tomblin has recognized that there are problems, but the Executive Order does not go far enough.
It remains imperative for the Legislature to act.
Until that time there should be a moratorium on new permits.
In conclusion, acting Governor Tomblin’s Executive Order and the resulting emergency rules should not be construed as a solution to the many problems related to Marcellus Shale and other gas well drilling.
Far from it.
The Select Committee assigned to craft meaningful legislation, especially the Senators, need to step up to address these problems, and they must do so quickly — next year is unacceptable. Although the draft legislation the committee is using as a starting point is also deficient in terms of addressing several issues of concern, a number of strengthening amendments were offered and adopted when the committee met earlier this month. We want to see the committee reconvene to continue its work and make the needed improvements to the bill.
Greenbrier River Watershed Association
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Sierra Club West Virginia Chapter
West Virginia Citizens Action Group
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization
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
Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo join with Joe Levine and Richard Murdock; they endeavor to protect and preserve America’s water sources today and for future generations.
Check out their site : http://www.citizensforwater.org/
Source : New York Times
Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.
But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.
In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.
“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”
“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.
Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.
The data show that while there are some very active wells, they are often surrounded by vast zones of less-productive wells that in some cases cost more to drill and operate than the gas they produce is worth. Also, the amount of gas produced by many of the successful wells is falling much faster than initially predicted by energy companies, making it more difficult for them to turn a profit over the long run.
If the industry does not live up to expectations, the impact will be felt widely. Federal and state lawmakers are considering drastically increasing subsidies for the natural gas business in the hope that it will provide low-cost energy for decades to come.
But if natural gas ultimately proves more expensive to extract from the ground than has been predicted, landowners, investors and lenders could see their investments falter, while consumers will pay a price in higher electricity and home heating bills.
There are implications for the environment, too. The technology used to get gas flowing out of the ground — called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — can require over a million gallons of water per well, and some of that water must be disposed of because it becomes contaminated by the process. If shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste.
The e-mails were obtained through open-records requests or provided to The New York Times by industry consultants and analysts who say they believe that the public perception of shale gas does not match reality; names and identifying information were redacted to protect these people, who were not authorized to communicate publicly. In the e-mails, some people within the industry voice grave concerns.
“And now these corporate giants are having an Enron moment,” a retired geologist from a major oil and gas company wrote in a February e-mail about other companies invested in shale gas. “They want to bend light to hide the truth.”
Others within the industry remain optimistic. They argue that shale gas economics will improve as the price of gas rises, technology evolves and demand for gas grows with help from increased federal subsidies being considered by Congress. “Shale gas supply is only going to increase,” Steven C. Dixon, executive vice president of Chesapeake Energy, said at an energy industry conference in April in response to skepticism about well performance.
Studying the Data
“I think we have a big problem.”
Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, recalled saying that in a May 2010 conversation with a senior economist at the Reserve, Mine K. Yucel. “We need to take a close look at this right away,” she added.
A former stockbroker with Merrill Lynch, Ms. Rogers said she started studying well data from shale companies in October 2009 after attending a speech by the chief executive of Chesapeake, Aubrey K. McClendon. The math was not adding up, Ms. Rogers said. Her research showed that wells were petering out faster than expected.
Source : Daily Mail
Printed in the Register Herald:
June 16–CHARLESTON — Moving with a sense of urgency, House and Senate leaders agreed Wednesday to name a special, 10-member task force to prepare acceptable Marcellus shale legislation in time for a special session this summer.
By the end of the week, Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, and acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, plan to choose five members apiece from their respective chambers.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin met with both men shortly before the Joint Committee on Government and Finance approved the task force and afterward said he is willing to put the stalled Marcellus proposal on his agenda, if a consensus develops.
Source : Channel 34 Binghamton, NY
From A.G. Schneiderman:
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced he will file a lawsuit today against the federal government for its failure to commit to a full environmental review of proposed regulations that would allow natural gas drilling – including the potentially harmful “fracking” technique – in the Delaware River Basin. Last month, the Attorney General notified the federal government that if it did not commit to conducting an environmental review before the regulations authorizing gas drilling are finalized, he would take legal action to compel such a study.
“Before any decisions on drilling are made, it is our responsibility to follow the facts and understand the public health and safety effects posed by potential natural gas development,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The federal government has an obligation to undertake the necessary studies, and as I made clear last month, this office will compel it to do so. The welfare of those living near the Delaware River Basin, as well as the millions of New Yorkers who rely on its pure drinking water each day, will not be ignored.”
In April, just one day before a blowout at a Pennsylvania natural gas drilling site caused gallons of chemical-laced water to spill over neighboring land and into a stream, the Attorney General demanded that the federal government comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The law requires federal agencies to conduct a full review of actions that may cause significant environmental impacts.
Despite the legal requirement, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) – with the approval of its supporting federal agencies – proposed regulations allowing natural gas development in the Basin without undertaking any such review. Represented by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General Peter A. DeLuca, the involved federal agencies include the Army Corps, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Schneiderman called on the federal government to comply with its NEPA obligations by suspending its consideration of the proposed regulations and undertaking a full review of all public health and safety risks posed by natural gas development in the Basin. At that time, Schneiderman further called for this review to include an evaluation of the cumulative impacts of widespread fracking within the Basin as well as the alternative of not authorizing natural gas development within the portion of the Basin that includes New York City’s West-of-Hudson watershed.
While the federal agencies determined that natural gas drilling in the Basin would potentially result in significant environmental impacts and that the study of those impacts should be performed, the DRBC’s lead agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responded last week and made clear that it and the other member agencies would make no such commitment. The determination undermines the NEPA requirement.
As a result, Schneiderman announced today that he is filing a lawsuit in federal District Court in Brooklyn, where General DeLuca’s office is located, to compel an environmental review before regulations authorizing gas drilling are finalized.
The proposed natural gas development regulations allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling (a technique commonly referred to as “fracking”) – within the Basin. Unless studied and subject to strict controls, fracking poses risks to the environment, health, and communities, including the withdrawal of large volumes of water from creeks and streams, potential contamination of drinking water supplies, waste generation, increased noise, dust and air pollution, and potential harms to community infrastructure and character from increased industrial activity. Due to the potential for significant impacts from gas fracking within the Basin, the relevant federal agencies are obligated to comply with NEPA by performing a full review of the impact of the DRBC proposed natural gas development regulations.
The Delaware River Basin includes a portion of the New York City watershed and parts of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Green, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan Counties. The federally designated Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (and its tributaries), is a nationally significant fishing, boating and recreational destination. In addition, roughly 58 percent of the land area of New York City’s West-of-Hudson watershed is within the Basin. That portion of the watershed provides most of the drinking water used by over nine million New York residents and visitors.
The DRBC estimates that its proposed regulations would allow 15,000 to 18,000 gas wells to be drilled within the Basin, most of which are expected to be developed by fracking. The regulations were proposed without first conducting an assessment of the environmental impacts related to allowing fracking in the Basin.
The DRBC is a federal-interstate body created through a compact agreed to by the President, Congress, state Legislators and governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Commission has legal authority to approve or disapprove activities that may have a substantial effect on the water resources within the 13,500 square mile Delaware River Basin — including over 2,300 square miles in New York. Under federal law, the DRBC and the federal agencies involved in formulating its policies and regulations are subject to NEPA.
This matter is being handled by New York City Watershed Inspector General Philip Bein, New York City Watershed Inspector General Scientist Charles Silver, Ph.D., and Assistant Attorneys General Michael J. Myers, Morgan Costello and Adam Dobson under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic.