Rules of the Marcellus Natural Gas “Play” Not Being Enforced

by Duane Nichols on November 7, 2012

This “letter to the editor” of the Morgantown Dominion Post is by Larry Harris, as published on November 5th:

 Rules of the game not being enforced …

The controversy over replacement NFL referees showed how important good regulators of the game’s rules are to that sport. A quick resolution came in the wake of widespread public objections to poor referees. I’m wondering why there’s not the same kind of outcry about a situation much more important to us than a game: Our health and safety. 

I speak of the poorly regulated gas industry that’s drilling an alarming number of wells in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There is now adequate information indicating that air, water and land pollution is associated with the hydro-fracking industry. 

Cancer-causing chemicals are being used in this process and reports of illegal dumping of wastewater on roads and into streams are reported. 

In New York, the situation is markedly different. First, they put a moratorium on hydrofracking until it was certain regulations were in place that protected the environment. The city of New York utilizes reservoirs for its water supply and citizens there made such an outcry that a decision on fracking was postponed again. Why are citizens here so complacent about an industry that endangers their water supply, their air quality and the land rights they lose when a driller obtains their mineral lease? 

As an environmental appointee of the Department’s Environmental Protection’s Public Advisory Council, I observed the agency develop a reasonable set of rules only to have the Legislature defeat it. 
We eventually got regulations but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s set of rules did not go far enough to protect us. We got a few more regulators to enforce the rules, but again not enough to adequately cover the number of wells being drilled. 

So we are in the same boat as having replacement referees: Even the regulations we have are not enforced. When a referee makes a bad call, the decision may affect that one game but the teams will play again. 

With fracking, a bad call is permanent, with long lasting environmental damage. We deserve better enforcement, better protection. Is not the health and safety of our families just as important as a football game?

>>>   Larry Harris is a member of the WV Department of Environmental Protection’s Public Advisory Council and a resident of Morgantown, WV. <<<

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