May 6, 2011

Randy C. Huffman, Cabinet Secretary
Department of Environmental Protection
601 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV 25304

Dear Secretary Huffman:
RE:  Specific Natural Gas Drilling Permits in the Monongahela River Valley

We are writing on behalf of the WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact to request your immediate attention regarding recent permits granted for the drilling of Marcellus shale gas wells immediately across the Monongahela River from the City of Morgantown in Monongalia County.  We have a number of major concerns about the location of these proposed gas wells.

The three primary concerns are:

(A) any leakage, seepage, spillage, or blow-out of liquid pollutants would be a direct threat to the water intake of the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB), that serves the greater metropolitan area of nearly 100,000 people, including many residential and business areas, and the entire populace of West Virginia University ( about  40,000 people).  MUB supplies to Morgantown, Westover, Granville, Laurel Point, Scotts Run, Star City, Pleasant Valley, Cheat View, and Stewartstown as well as Milan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and the Ft. Martin and Longview power plants.

(B) the diverse air emissions including controlled and inadvertent releases, fugitive emissions, blow-outs, and accidental incidents that represent a major threat to the people and property here in the Monongahela River valley.

(C) fire and explosion hazards, as evidenced by a number of incidents in northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania; this includes the flash-fire in Washington County (PA) on February 23rd that resulted in serious injuries to three workers, two of whom were WV residents; and the recent Marcellus well blow-out in Bradford County (PA) which spread toxic fluids over a wide area despite the engineering and operating best practices of the drilling company involved.  This also resulted in a temporary halt to fracking by this company in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In view of these real and potential diverse problems with Marcellus well drilling operations, we request immediate actions that address the above issues including:

(1).  A full explanation of the permit review and evaluation process and its results with regard to permits for Marcellus wells MIP No. 4H and 6H, as well as any others in the Monongahela River valley in Monongalia County.

(2).  A determination as to whether the State of West Virginia can place a hold on these permits until such time as a full and complete evaluation, with public input if possible, can be accomplished. Whether or not a hold can be placed (and we believe that it can be), an engineering risk assessment study needs to be performed on the well drilling permits specified above to determine worst-case incidents. Contingencies must be established so that the water treatment and alternative supplies can be put in place for the cities involved; evacuation plans in case of fires, explosions, temperature inversions, or other occurrences; and air, water, and noise monitors for health and safety protection at the near-by Westwood Middle School, as well as local residences and businesses and the adjoining cities.

(3).  A proposal from the WV Department of Environmental Protection to prevent the granting of future permits that represent direct threats to the public health and safety, in any part of the State of West Virginia;

(4). A meeting with you, in Morgantown or Charleston, to discuss the extent of the threats that these proposed Marcellus wells represent to the Monongahela River valley, to the MUB public water supply, and to the atmosphere over Morgantown, Westover, Granville,  West Virginia University and the various residential-commercial-industrial areas in this vicinity.

We believe that these permitted wells plus those that may be added, can present a significant and real threat to the health and safety of residents of this area. Your office is empowered to take substantive actions when such threats to public health and safety occur; and, we herewith request that you do so without delay.  What can we do to be of assistance at this critical time?  Please let us know as soon as possible whether a meeting with you would be best held in Morgantown or Charleston.   Thank you for your help at this time.

Duane G. Nichols                                          Barry G. Pallay

Duane G. Nichols, Co-Chair                                         Barry G. Pallay, Co-Chair
330 Dream Catcher Circle                                            124 Diamond Court
Morgantown, WV 26508                                             Morgantown, WV 26505
(304) 599-8040                                                           (304) 599-2077

cc:  Open Letter, Governor, City of Morgantown, MUB, Compact Groups