Charleston, WV (March 27, 2013) – At today’s public hearing, WVDEP will hear arguments from citizens on the lack of scientific justification and consideration of the public interest in its attempt to pass an emergency rule that would allow drastically higher levels of dissolved aluminum into West Virginia streams. Exposure to aluminum at concentrations in the hundreds of micrograms/liter has been shown to stunt and kill aquatic organisms, including algae and fish. The proposed rule would result in a 13-fold and 46-fold increase over the current criteria for acute and chronic aluminum toxicity to aquatic life respectively, raising serious concerns over the future health of West Virginia waterways.
WVDEP cites that the revised criteria needs to be adopted as an emergency rule instead of going through the regular rulemaking process, which fails to adhere to public participation requirements of the Clean Water Act. Groups’ submitted comments state there is no emergency that justifies the promulgation of this rule. “The only emergency seems to be that our water is too clean and DEP believes that they are therefore somehow required to help a small number of polluters avoid the cost of treating their toxic waste.” said Jim Kotcon, Conservation Chair for the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club.
The lack of scientific study on the impact of the weakened criteria on aquatic ecosystems in West Virginia is of primary concern. Groups working to protect water quality contend that WVDEP must withdraw the proposal and carry out more extensive scientific research justifying water hardness as a mitigating factor in aluminum toxicity. “DEP is rushing this rule through without the scientific evidence to assure aquatic life and public health is protected,” said Don Garvin, Legislative Coordinator for the WV Environmental Council.
If adopted some streams may benefit from this change, but many more will suffer further impairment. Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the WV Rivers Coalition noted, “The public has an interest in being able to use and enjoy healthy rivers and streams. There’s too much at stake to adopt such a drastic change without scientific certainty that we’re adequately protecting all headwater streams.”
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Water and Waste Management have scheduled a public hearing and comment period on emergency rule changes to 47CSR2, “Requirements Governing Water Quality Standards.” The DEP proposes an emergency rule to revise the dissolved aluminum criteria and human health Category A beryllium criterion in 47CSR2. The hearing will be held at DEP’s Charleston headquarters, 601 57th Street S.E., Charleston, WV 25304, in the Coopers Rock Training Room on March 27th at 6:00 p.m. Copies of the emergency rule and other rule documents are available from the Secretary of State’s office or from the agency website www.dep.wv.gov/wqs.
About League of Women Voters of WV:
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
About Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC):
OVEC, based in Huntington WV, is dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the environment through education, grassroots organizing, leadership development and coalition building.
The mission of the West Virginia Environmental Council is to facilitate communication and cooperation among citizens in promoting environmental protection in West Virginia, to assist in organizing grass roots groups, to facilitate interaction among established environmental organizations, and to correspond with all appropriate local, state, and federal agencies involved in the management of West Virginia’s environment.
About WV Highlands Conservancy:
Working since 1965 for the conservation of West Virginia’s natural resources. Publishers of the Highlands Voice and the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide. www.wvhighlands.org
About WV Rivers Coalition (WVRC):
WVRC’s mission is to “seek the conservation and restoration of West Virginia’s exceptional rivers and streams”. WVRC values clean water as the foundation of life and believes that all people should respect and be able to enjoy clean West Virginia rivers and streams. Learn more at www.wvrivers.org.
Thomas E. Lovejoy, a conservation biologist, presented a lecture on climate change in January at the West Virginia University College of Law. Lovejoy explored the past and present impacts of climate change on nature and biodiversity as well as how managing ecosystems could reduce the amount of climate change that will occur. In 2012, Lovejoy received the Blue Planet Prize for his lifetime in conservation. He developed the “debt-for-nature” swap program for environmental protection projects. It is one of the largest sources of financing for international conservation, resulting in more than $1 billion in funding since 1987.
Lovejoy is an environmental science and policy professor at George Mason University. He founded the TV series NATURE on PBS, and was the first to use the term “biological diversity” in 1980. He holds B,S. and PhD degrees from Yale University.
“It is no exaggeration to say that Tom Lovejoy has devoted himself most dedicatedly, and single-mindedly, to the welfare of this earth,” said law professor Michael Blumenthal. “For almost a quarter century, he has worked on the interaction between climate change and biodiversity. Lovejoy has been a major force in saving the Amazon from total deforestation. Having him here at WVU to discuss these issues provides us with a rare opportunity to have a major thinker and activist provide examples of ways in which we can assure that there will indeed be a planet for our descendants to inhabit and to celebrate.”
However, if you do decide to go to Charleston to lobby in person, Chuck Wyrostock, Outreach Coordinator for the WVSC is happy to provide you free support and this is his advice,
Visiting the capitol might seem a bit daunting at first, but I’ll be there along with other environmental lobbyists to help you navigate the halls to meet with your representatives. We must make them understand that we’re facing a life-changing scenario in our hills and hollows. And there’s nothing like a personal visit from constituents to put across the idea that current regulations for drilling are woefully inadequate.
On December 1, 2012, the State Board of the West Virginia League of Women Voters voted unanimously in favor of signing on to the “Call for a Moratorium on New Permits for Natural Gas Wells”. We agree with Chuck Wyrostock when he says ”Most legislators think they’ve done their best with Marcellus. They don’t want to hear anymore about the gaping holes in the law or the dysfunction in the DEP”, but “it is incomprehensible how they can keep giving permission to drill, drill, drill when there’s virtually no inspection, no enforcement and no accountability.”
How to get free lobbying support from Chuck Wyrostock:
Call ahead and make an appointment with your representatives. This could avoid disappointment and wasted time.
Email or Call Chuck at 877 252 0257 to make arrangements.
Call Chuck’s cell phone at 304 545 6325 when you arrive at the capitol so we can hook up.
To stay informed about Shale Gas legislation and related news, please ask Chuck to add you to his mailing list.
On Saturday, December 1, 2012 the State Board of the West Virginia League of Women Voters voted unanimously in favor of signing on to a “Call for a Moratorium on New Permits for Natural Gas Wells”. In doing so, we join several other organizations who want to send this strong message to leadership in our state:
In accordance with West Virginia Code establishing the Department of Environmental Protection:
Chapter 22, Article 1-1 (a) The Legislature finds that: (1) Restoring and protecting the environment is fundamental to the health and welfare of individual citizens, and our government has a duty to provide and maintain a healthful environment for our citizens.
We, the undersigned, call for a moratorium on new permits for natural gas wells until the following minimum requirements are met:
No new permits should be issued until DEP 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.
No new permits should be granted until tracers are added to the hydraulic fracturing fluids so groundwater contamination from drilling operations can be identified.
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.
No new permits should be granted until all hazardous materials are disposed of in hazardous waste facilities.
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.
No new permits should be issued until air pollution emissions are monitored and regulated and pollution controls are required on all gas facilities.
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.
We know that the legislation adopted in December, 2011 was grossly inadequate, and does not provide the basic protections needed by West Virginia citizens. Yet permits for new wells continue to be issued, leaving landowners and local citizens helpless to stop the dangers in their neighborhood. Natural gas development can be done right, but today, it is being done wrong, and that needs to stop. Right Now!
Stop the noise! Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it is not. At the Natural Resources committee meeting of LWV of Morgantown-Monongalia on November 19th, 2012, the brutal reality of what happens when citizens have no recourse when their welfare is threatened became painfully apparent to us all in a loud way.
In the videos below Cassandra Harvey records the almost constant 24/7 noise her family had to experience in the vicinity of the Mon Fayette Industrial Park (MFIP). ”Had to” because after several month of grating, constant, maddening, unrelenting, drive a person insane noise, she and her family had to move. Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) Manager Edward Limas of Inspection Oilfield Services (IOS) states in a noise survey conducted on 8/27/2012 that the noise level ranged from 86.3-105.8 dB. According to the OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Standards concerning Occupational noise exposure (“Paragraphs (c) through (n) of this section shall not apply to employers engaged in oil and gas well drilling and servicing operations.”), sound protection is required for workers spending over 2 hours at the 100 dB range. Table G-16 below provides a detailed dB/hr explanation.
This video speaks for itself. IOS workers are not protected from potential injury from loud sound! If they were working for short periods of time, perhaps, but the residents beside the Industrial Park have been observing the same workers over an extended time period.
The residents have been experiencing air pollution from the rust and chemicals being removed from the pipes. Sometimes there is a chemical odor in the air, and they have observed a film from the particulates depositing on surfaces. Ruth Stone explained how the chemistry of her swimming pool water has been altered. Photos were shown of a bird bath filled with a rust color substance. Observe in the video above how workers are not wearing any respiratory protection either! Another known violation.
I asked Bill Myers, one of over 10 residents who attended the meeting, whether the pipes are cleaned on location at the drilling site, or whether they come in dirty with drilling mud. Although he was not completely sure whether they are being delivered with toxic mud, he said, they are cleaned at the Industrial Park, and the dirty water, drains into a tributary that empties into Cheat Lake. It would be interesting to find out the results from a chemistry test of the effluents being dumped from the site. IOS is only 1 of several companies with a lease at the Park. According to MFIP leasing specs, there are now more than 20 tenants mainly focused on the oil and gas industry.
Resident's home in relation to the Industrial Park site.
When the Industrial Park was being constructed beside the residents homes, a 15 foot high vertical drop was built right along their property lines. No attempt was made by the operators to put a protective fence along this wall to protect residents, in particular, their children. Both of Cassandra’s children were adversely affected by the noise in the nighttime and suffered from the inability to sleep. Cassandra observed behavioral changes in both children resulting from the extreme fatigue. There were specific instances when her 6 year old was screaming and crying due to an incredibly high-pitched squeal. Both she and her husband, Wade, a physician, have developed tinnitus. The video below provides good insight into why they had to move.
But, many of the residents cannot move from the location. Some have been there for 40+ years. This is the place they have loved and enjoyed, but now their faces bare deep frowns. I could sense the heaviness and despair in the air. These folk do not oppose good jobs, and IOS promised them they would be a good neighbor. But that has not happened, instead it has become a waking nightmare that they cannot fall asleep from.
Burning behind the IOS facility.
There are many other violations the residents have been observing at the Industrial Park. One repeated violation involves burning without a permit on an industrial site which is illegal in West Virginia.
Blasting is being performed by Mountaineer Drilling & Blasting from Clarksburg. Some resident’s homes have sustained structural damage. The response from the Industrial Park’s insurer, Chartis (Mountaineer Drilling sent Smith Adjusting) is that the blasting has not been strong enough to cause damage. The residents were made aware that seismographs were used after they complained; however, they have never been granted access to the data collected. What is worst is that no offer for pre-appraisals were initially offered, and there was never a notice about the blasting being performed. Sirens were occasionally used, but not according to blasting regulations or with any regularity. Complete violations. Paul Panson, incorporator and President (owner) of LPG Land & Development Corp., the corporation operating the Mon Fayette Industrial Park, allowed more blasting to occur on November 8 and 12 despite complaints from the residents. Bonnie Hughes (the resident who originally contacted me on this website) says that an unknown company was performing blasting on those two dates, and speculates that LPG Land & Development may have been performing the work themselves without an outside contractors help.
Why hasn’t anything been done? Apparently, the regulations that pertain to permanent sites do not apply to the transient Oil & Gas industry’s temporary sites. But temporary is a relative term, it could be an indefinite amount of years, as long as drilling continues up the road in Pennsylvania, the Industrial Park is conveniently located right near the end of the Mon-Fayette expressway. As for the noise, the worst complaint of all, Bonnie explains it in this way, “The buck keeps getting passed around from EPA to DEP to County Commission back to EPA”. While deeply concerned, the Monongalia County Health Department and HUD have not been able to help.
WV Congressman David McKinley's response
On October 19, 2012, WV Congressman David McKinley responded to Bonnie’s complaint regarding the excessive noise level at the MFIP. He explains, “The Noise Control Act of 1972 and Quiet Communities Act of 1978 were not rescinded, and remain in effect today.” However, McKinley says, “In 1981, the Administration concluded that noise issues were best handled at the state or local governmental level.” McKinley copied this information in his letter verbatim from EPA’s website. Neither does he believe that current Federal regulations enforced by the EPA or a designated agency would apply to her complaint. Then he offers to forward a very detailed written statement of her concerns to the EPA to determine if help is available, and ask the County Commission, and WV DEP to contact her personally. Bonnie sent this statement to McKinley on October 22, 2012, and has not heard back. But, the residents have already been through this circuit with the EPA, DEP and County Commission over and over again. He says, “I am hopeful these officials will be successful in convincing the drilling company to commit to being a “good neighbor” and offer a suitable resolution which will be aimed at reducing the noise levels associated with their drilling activities.”
What the residents desperately want now is relief. They cannot wait for County Planning to implement a sound ordinance, or the state legislature to implement a law that the County Commission would have to obey. They hope that the Noise Control Act of 1972 will come to their rescue and will preempt, or perhaps their new neighbor will pay close attention to the part in the Constitution that promotes the general Welfare of all her people.
One more video to whet your whistle. In this video, a fire whistle competes with the background sound. Yes, sirens are still used in our region in this modern age of pagers, radios and telephones!
What: Water and Wellness: Health Impacts of Fossil Fuel Extraction
Keynote speaker, panels, round-table discussions and stories from residents
impacted by deep shale hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and mountaintop removal
Where: First Presbyterian Church
456 Spruce Street Morgantown, W.Va. Location map
Why: Recent scientific studies and increasing anecdotal evidence point to dire human health impacts from both gas drilling operations and mountaintop removal coal mining. This conference seeks to highlight the findings of scientists and health professionals and the experiences of medically-impacted residents so that the general public can be better informed and involved. Will we face an impending health crisis in much of our region, or will citizen action ensure a healthier future?
Who: Keynote speaker:
Dr. Wilma Subra, environmental scientist. Subra has degrees in microbiology, chemistry and computer sciences. She served as vice-chair of the EPA National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology and is president of the Subra Company. She appears in the 2010 documentary Gasland.
Subra is available for phone interviews with reporters on Tuesday, September 4 at 337-367-2216.
Dr. Michael Hendryx, Research Director for the West Virginia University Institute for Health Policy
To: Air Quality Office of the US EPA
From:League of Women Voters of West Virginia
Re: EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Air Pollution Rules, proposed
The League of Women Voters of West Virginia applauds the US EPA for issuing regulations on air emissions from fracking to drill for natural gas and oil. At present West Virginia residents are among those bearing the brunt of increased air pollution from fracking to produce natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
We recognize the economic benefits from gas well drilling, but these benefits should not be at the expense of the health of our people. Regulation of VOCs and air toxics is necessary to protect our citizens’ health.
In addition the release of methane from gas wells contributes to the warming of the planet so we strongly support measures to eliminate fugitive methane releases.
We also support requiring existing wells be covered by the same air pollution regulations.
We are impressed with the proposed savings to the industry when they install the necessary measures to meet the requirements of the regulations.
Thank you for your efforts to improve the public health of residents in fracking/drilling areas.
On June 2 a meeting cosponsored by the Morgantown LWV was held at Skyview Elementary in Morgatown, WV. Guests included Randy Huffman. This is a recap of the presentations, conversations, ordinances and the resolutions.
Public Meeting on the Adverse Impacts of the Marcellus Natural Gas Activities:
Where Are We, Where Are We Going?
Meeting Agenda and Minutes — June 2, 2011 — 6:15 PM
Skyview Elementary School, Westover, WV
SPONSORS: WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact (Barry Pallay & Duane Nichols) and the League of Women Voters (Kitty Lozier, Phyllis Marshall, Janice Gunel, Jonathan Rosenbaum)