Pocahontas Commission supports gas drilling moratorium
Marlinton, W.Va. – During Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Beth Little, with Eight Rivers Council, requested commission support for a letter to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. The letter, endorsed by 11 groups, including the West Virginia Sierra Club, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Christians For The Mountains, requests a moratorium on new gas drilling permits in the state until seven conditions are met.
“It would be wonderful if you would pass a resolution in support of the moratorium,” Little said.
The state legislature approved new gas drilling rules in December 2011, that critics say are too industry-friendly.
Commissioner David Fleming says several legislators were unhappy with the new rules.
“The joint committee that was formed to propose new guidelines – that was a bi-partisan committee, put together by the Governor, to come back with recommendations – and most, most of those recommendations were taken out of the final bill that passed,” he said. “And several of those committee members were upset.”
The seven conditions include mandatory DEP inspections of drilling sites; the use of tracers in drilling fluid; a closed-loop process for hydrofracking; disposal of hazardous waste in hazardous waste facilities; home rule for drilling rules; air pollution monitoring and regulation and guaranteed replacement clean water in the event of contamination.
Commissioner Martin Saffer says air pollution regulations are obviously insufficient.
“All you have to do is drive through Upshur County, past a gas well, and you can smell the gas everywhere,” he said. “It’s just like somebody left the stove on.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker asks Little about the danger of drilling waste.
“Is this like mud or is it contaminated water or what is considered as hazardous materials, here?” Walker asked.
“The drilling cuttings – the mud – there are heavy metals in the Earth,” Little replied. “The Marcellus is radioactive. That’s how they tell when they hit the Marcellus. It’s not a Geiger counter, but they have instruments to tell the radioactivity of what they’re drilling. So, it’s the drilling cuttings and it’s the frack fluids that have all kinds of really horrible toxins. I mean, there’s an agreement with the Department of Highways to use drilling brine on our roads for deicing, and it can have strontium and glutaraldehyde and, you know, all these other chemicals they use in it. And glutaralehyde is a biocide that kills everything.”
Walker said he had issues with just two of the requested conditions – those involving disposal of hazardous waste and a replacement water supply. The commissioner said it would be impossible, in some cases, to determine which driller had caused contamination.
The commission voted 2-1 to endorse the letter, with Walker voting in opposition.
In other business, the commission appointed the following to the Local Emergency Planning Committee: Shawn Dunbrack, David Fleming, David Jonese, Joseph Smith, Ann Walker, Michael Vance, Pamela Pritt, Geoff Hamill, Herbie Barlow, Charlie Wilfong, Kenneth Varner, Adam Taylor, Darren Wilkes, John Rebinski, Barbara Lay, Cindy Wilfong, Sam McPaters, David Peacock and John Leyzorek.