WV Residents Will Not Get Protection from Compressor Station Noise & Lights

by Duane Nichols on February 12, 2017

Noise impacts are severe and long lasting, noise matters!

WV-DEP eliminates protections for noise, light from natural gas facilities

From an Article by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail, February 11, 2017

Less than two weeks after taking office, Gov. Jim Justice’s administration quietly deleted permit language intended to protect residents in West Virginia’s natural gas regions from excessive noise and bright lights from compressor stations and other facilities that are springing up across those communities.

On January 27, the state Department of Environmental Protection removed from a streamlined permit for compressor stations and some other facilities language that stated such operations “shall not create a nuisance to the surrounding community by way of unreasonable noise and light during operations.”

The WV-DEP, now headed by Justice appointee Austin Caperton, made the change in direct response to a request from the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, according to agency records.

The WV-DEP’s action comes just five months after agency lawyers, under the Tomblin administration, successfully defended the language against a legal challenge from the industry trade association. The reversal by the new leadership at WV-DEP was noted on a posting buried on the agency website, and it emerged publicly only when mention of it showed up in one of Caperton’s emails, included as part of a collection of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Environmental groups and citizen organizations were shocked when they heard from a reporter about the WV-DEP’s action, saying agency officials had not consulted them or even informed them of the move despite citizens having played a central role in 2015 in convincing then-DEP Secretary Randy Huffman the additional protections were needed for residents who live in the midst of the Marcellus Shale boom.

“To say we are disappointed in this decision is an understatement,” said Julie Archer, project manager for the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization, a group of landowners in the gas-producing counties of the state. “We feel completely ambushed. Eliminating these provisions is a huge disservice to those living near these facilities, and it’s shameful that we are going to allow their lives, health and property to be ruined simply because the industry doesn’t want to put adequate protections in place.”

Fred Durham, the WV-DEP air quality director who signed the permit change, did not return repeated phone calls. Neither Caperton nor the WV-DEP’s acting public information officer, Jake Glance, responded to offers to allow them to explain the agency’s decision. Caperton, on orders from the governor’s office, has declined interview invitations from the Gazette-Mail.

Anne Blankenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, indicated her organization was pleased with the WV-DEP decision, citing in an email the same legal arguments her group raised about the permit language — and that the state Air Quality Board rejected in a unanimous decision in August.

“Not only were the noise and light conditions vague and unclear, which made compliance with them very difficult, such conditions are outside the jurisdiction of the Division of Air Quality as noise and light are not air pollutants,” Blankenship wrote in her email message.

Last week, during his State of the State address, Justice said he had ordered Caperton and the WV-DEP  to stop saying “no” to business and industry. Justice did not offer any examples of the WV-DEP doing so, but he used part of his televised speech to blast the agency’s inspectors, saying they needed to stop wearing T-shirts and old jeans and looking like they “maybe haven’t shaved forever.”

“Now listen, I think they ought to look like something,” Justice said of the WV-DEP’s inspectors. “And they will look like something, or we’ll have them tending to Grizzly Adams.”

(Part 2 to be posted tomorrow)

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WV-DEP Secretary Austin Caperton will appear at a Public Forum on Monday, February 27th at 7 pm. The location is the Shenandoah Room of the Mountainlair (WVU Student Center) on University Avenue (main campus).  This event was arranged by the WVU Student Sierra Coalition and the Mon Group of the WV Sierra Club.  Caperton will discuss the goals for the WV-DEP and answer questions.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Betty Wiley February 12, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Kudos to WV-DNR Specialists —

I’ve been interfacing with employees of the WV Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for several decades. They are always dressed impeccably and in uniform clothing that has a nametag and badge attached, and seem to be proud, professional public servants. They work in the fields and streams, and I believe they do the best they can to protect our natural resources while walking the narrow path between regulations and industrial pressure.

Our new inexperienced governor in the “state of the state” address for some reason went off on a tangent and criticized DNR employees for wearing “t-shirts and jeans with a badge in the pocket” and generally castigated them. That was uncalled-for and ill-advised. He just embarrassed himself. I hope he has apologized.

Thanks, DNR people.

Betty Wiley, President
Dunkard Creek Watershed Assn., Inc.

Note from Betty: Disgusting development. Note that the Governor insulted WV DEP (Not DNR as I previously emailed) for “wearing t shirts and jeans.” BUT it’s the same deal… I’ve been interfacing with DEP people too, and all I remember is uniforms and badges and smiles from people walking the narrow path between enforcing the law to protect us, and getting fired for being too vigilant.


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