WV Legislature should revisit regulation of Marcellus shale drilling now, not later

by Duane Nichols on January 8, 2014

Morgantown Dominion Post

EDITORIAL — Morgantown Dominion Post, January 7, 2014

Work in progress, not the last word — WV Legislature should revisit regulation of Marcellus shale drilling now, not later

For all their scientific bent, a series of legislative studies on horizontal gas well drilling are short of useful data. Couple that with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (WV-DEP) reluctance to recommend any action, and we haven’t even begun tapping into how best to regulate this industry.

Oh, there are regulations out there as a result of “modified” legislation that became law more than two years ago. However, this legislation’s shortcomings were apparent from the start. Many, including our newspaper, referred to it then as a work in progress. However, these studies’ shortcomings, the tabling of any proposed amendments and the WV-DEP’s inaction have kept this issue on the shelf.

Ask what’s next and many lawmakers, researchers and the WV-DEP tell us further study. Further study on: The safe disposal of radioactive gas well drill cuttings. Measuring noise, dust, light and volatile organic compounds emanating from these well pads. A workable and fair setback rule for surface owners.

But as most of these studies almost predictably conclude: “As evident by the many … studies under way, these initiatives will result in more complete information over time. Once available, this data will help advance and guide future rule development.” Or, as some researchers noted about their own studies’ limits, “A health effects-based setback distance proposal might require a study with a lengthy (three years or more) sampling effort” at more sites with more detailed analysis.

Anyone see a pattern here? In the meantime, the studies suggest current regulations will serve “to minimize and mitigate human health and environmental impacts.” That’s nice to know. But minimizing and mitigating health and environmental impacts doesn’t seem like quite enough if it’s your family living by a well pad.

Admittedly, the regulations signed into law at a special session of the Legislature on December 14, 2011 were a giant leap forward then. And the Marcellus industry itself is also still a work in progress. Yet, the current regulations heralded a beginning — not and end — to this issue. More definitive sampling and health-effects studies may be needed to address the long-term impact of these wells.

However, the continued intermittent exposure of households and communities to these well pads until such studies are “complete,” if ever, is risky business. Furthermore, we question whether the WV-DEP will ever even take up suggestions from these studies. The Legislature needs to revisit the regulation of shale drilling, especially setbacks and monitoring, this week. Not another two years from now.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nancy B. January 10, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I hope and pray that this will be a wake up call for ALL West Virginians. We need to demand an end to the rape of our state by extraction corporations. For so long WV has supplied energy for much of the nation. And for what?

We’re still one of the poorest states in the union. The few things we have in abundance,… water, mountains, our land and wildlife,… are being ripped from our hands by oil, gas, and coal corporations. When will WE ever get a break?

Please consider letting our leaders know we need a change…please sign and pass on this petition, ironically, written up BEFORE the chemical oil spill in Charleston…and by the way, methylcyclohexane was found in wells that were contaminated due to fracking.



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