The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has joined with Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter; Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; West Virginia Environmental Council; Friends of the Cacapon River; Christians for the Mountains; Eight Rivers Council; Greenbrier River Water Association; SaveTheWaterTable.org; West Virginians For A Moratorium On Marcellus (WV4MoM) and Coal River Mountain Watch in calling for a moratorium on drilling for gas in the Marcellus shale until certain conditions are met.
The groups did not request a permanent end to all drilling. They recognize the possibility (only theoretical at this point) that natural gas drilling could be done right. Today, however, it is not being done safely. It has to stop until changes are made which would make this possible.
To reach this goal, the groups asked that no new permits be issued until there are several changes in the way the drilling is done. The groups recognize that the Legislature enacted some drilling requirements in December, 2011. Those requirements are not, however, remotely adequate to provide the basic protections needed by West Virginia citizens.
These are the steps that the groups requested be taken:
1. No new permits should be issued until Department of Environmental Protection inspections of drilling operations and gas wells become mandatory. The WV DEP must determine the number of active wells that an inspector can effectively oversee and limit the number of permits issued to the corresponding number of inspectors on staff.
2. No new permits should be granted until tracers are added to the hydraulic fracturing fluids so groundwater contamination from drilling operations can be identified.
3. No new permits should be issued until a closed-loop process is mandated for drilling and hydraulic fracturing. In order to protect the state’s surface and groundwater, no waste or flowback, solid or liquid should be applied to or buried on the land.
4. No new permits should be granted until all hazardous materials are disposed of in hazardous waste facilities.
5. No new permits should be issued until Home Rule is honored. Local towns and counties must be allowed to control whether, where and when hydraulic fracturing is done in their communities, including control of the roads and hours where trucks hauling drilling equipment and supplies are allowed to operate.
6. No new permits should be issued until air pollution emissions are monitored and regulated and pollution controls are required on all gas facilities.
7. No new permits should be issued until West Virginia citizens are guaranteed a permanent replacement if their source of clean water becomes contaminated at any time within 1 mile of a natural gas drilling operation unless another source of pollution can be proven.
The groups’ request was delivered in September, 2012, to Governor Tomblin and to Jeff Kessler, President, West Virginia State Senate, and Richard Thompson, Speaker, West Virginia House of Delegates, who were at the Capitol for interim meetings.