Comments on Marcellus Shale Well Pads in Monongalia County, WV

by Duane Nichols on October 30, 2022

Northwestern West Virginia is of primary interest for natural gas development

Permit Review, WV DEP, October 5, 2022

ATTN: Wade Stansberry, Environmental Resources Specialist, Office of Oil and Gas, WV. Department of Environmental Protection, 601 57th Street, SE, Charleston WV

Re: Permit Number: 061-01914, Well Number: Dolls Run 1H, County: Monongalia, Operator: Northeast Natural Energy

For many years, two separate households of friends who live in Cassville have told me how the noise coming from the Boggess and Lemley fracking well pads made it impossible for them to get a good night’s sleep or to function fully. I have often heard the noise from the Boggess well pad while walking along Sugar Grove Road, several miles away.

So it was with alarm that I saw the permit application for a fracking pad that will be 1.4 miles from our home, situated on a ridge top where the sound will travel directly down Dents Run, along Mel Brand Road and Gallus Road, where we live. We work from home so will be subject to the noise 24/7.

A study done by the WVU School of Public Health (May 28, 2013) for the WVDEP, as requested by the WV State Code: Chapter 22-6A-12(e) regarding the impacts of noise, light, dust and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) generated by the drilling of horizontal wells inconclusively said: Due to the transient nature and/or frequency of sound, the agency recognizes that noises may be perceived as a nuisance, even though measurements indicate no harm.

The noise tests were done between July and October, 2012, when leaves on the trees will dampen noise. Clearly the noise will be worse during the six months when leaves are not on the trees. The acoustics of our valley are such that we could hear our neighbor, whose house was about 200 yards away, when she was talking on her front porch.

An official chart may say that noise levels are within safe decibel levels, but our perception of it could be quite different, depending on many factors. How will this be addressed?

Given how many people live in the Cassville, Sugar Grove and New Hill area, a lot of people will have their health, sleep and ability to function adversely impacted by the constant noise. New Hill has a high density of housing. What noise abatement procedures will be put in place? I saw no mention of this in the permit application.

Further, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) and other toxic hydrocarbons, such as formaldehyde, released from oil and gas operations and equipment can lead to health impacts ranging from irritation of eyes, nose, mouth and throat to aggravated asthma and other respiratory conditions, blood disorders, harm to developing fetuses, immune system-related diseases, and cancer (e.g., leukemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and Ewing Sarcoma).

A study commissioned by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection found that, at many sites, a 625-feet distance from oil and gas activity—above the distances set by many states—still resulted in benzene concentrations above levels the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers “the minimum risk level for no health effects.” At least one of the BTEX compounds was found at all of the seven drilling sites examined. from: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Air Quality, “Air, Noise, and Light Monitoring Results For Assessing Environmental Impacts of Horizontal Gas Well Drilling Operations (ETD‐10 Project),” Charleston, WV.

Today, October 5, a community meeting in Canonsburg, PA is scheduled to update residents on PA Health & Environment Studies and to discuss health impacts of shale gas development. Residents are concerned that fracking may be to blame for the spike in rare childhood cancers and other health impacts in Southwestern Pennsylvania. According to the maps provided in the NNE permit application, we will be down wind of the well pad. While we are just beyond the one-mile radius, how can we know that a strong wind won’t carry VOCs over our house?

More importantly, it should be obvious that a warming climate is a threat to everyone on earth. How much money must we spend on the enormous damage done by hurricanes and wildfires, which have all gotten bigger and more frequent as a result of putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Natural gas may be cleaner to burn than coal but extracting it is much dirtier. Investment in clean energy is the only viable way forward.

In 2012-14, we got a front row seat to a strip mine directly across our fence line and were subjected to blasting, dust and back-up beeping noise. I documented at least 139 times that our house was shaken by blasts from the Bucy 1, 2 and 3 strip mines. Bucy 3 Mine, in front of our house, is still sitting there, abandoned. Why do we have to keep fighting theses battles? Why do so many people have to pay the price so that a handful of people can make money?

Why does this new well pad have to be placed on a ridge top where it will have maximum impact in all directions? I request that this permit be denied, based on how many people will be negatively impacted by the noise and pollution. I would also request written notice of the permit decision.

Sincerely, Betsy Lawson, Monongalia County, WV


See Also: A Guide to Every Permitted Natural Gas Well in West Virginia by Al Shaw (ProPublica) and Kate Mishkin (Charleston Gazette-Mail), March 6, 2019

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