WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact


Upper Monongahela River Association

Date:  October 4, 2010

Governor Joe Manchin III
State of West Virginia
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, E.
Charleston, WV 25305

RE: Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts of Marcellus Shale Gas Development

Urgent action is needed to protect the watersheds of West Virginia. A similar situation as severe exists in southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania. Hundreds of thousands of acres in these States are in various stages of exploration and development in the Marcellus shale for natural gas extraction.

The attention that this overall situation has received, or is planned to receive, by State governments is inadequate in the view of more than twenty watershed groups and conservation organizations. And, the program review in the Office of Oil and Gas as well as the Panel recently selected by WV-DEP to study the situation are not an adequate response given the magnitude of the problems at issue. The Morgantown Dominion Post newspaper was quick to see the substantive bias in affiliations of the Panel members (6 of 9 represent the gas industry under review), as described in the enclosed Editorial. There may well be some changes in State laws needed by the industry; however, the issues faced by the common citizens are extensive and severe and not appropriately represented by the panel. Nor are these issues being adequately addressed by the two State governments, given current practices or plans. The Editorial states “the fox has been put in charge of the hen house.”  Watershed and conservation groups are explicitly and conspicuously absent from the Panel.

The WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact was formed on August 17, 2010, with a second meeting taking place in Morgantown on September 22nd. This new Watershed Compact includes the Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA) and other groups that have operated for many years.  UMRA has coordinated monthly meetings on these gas well drilling issues for two years with interested and affected parties including industry and government representatives.  Some eight Resolutions have been approved by this Compact to date, four at each meeting. These eight Resolutions are attached to this letter for your use. We believe these represent an essential response, in part, to the current issues involving Marcellus shale development and extraction in West Virginia.

We seek the implementation of remedies for the current problems in the Monongahela River watershed, the current problems in Wetzel and Marshall counties, and the projected problems on the horizon for our State and for Pennsylvania relative to natural gas exploration, development, production and transmission particularly in the Marcellus shale. We are convinced that the long-term condition of our Region is at significant risk at this time, so remedies are needed as soon as they can possibly be put into effect.

We seek (1) a meeting with you, (2) a review and adjustment of the composition of the Marcellus Panel recently appointed, and (3) positions for conservation groups such as ours on the various Advisory Committees within State government that deal with the diverse aspects of water resources, water quality, sediment prevention and erosion control.  

Further, we request that our Compact or some of its members be represented on the new Panel and on the appropriate Advisory Committees.   We also feel it is reasonable to ask for a response from your Office regarding the eight resolutions attached.   Otherwise, the input and participation of the public including our diverse watershed groups and conservation organizations will not be fairly and appropriately served and citizens of our region will be further harmed and under represented.

Respectfully submitted,

Duane G. Nichols, Compact  Co-Chair                        Barry G. Pallay, Compact  Co-Chair
             and President of CLEAR                                        and Vice President of UMRA
WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact        Upper Monongahela River Association
330 Dream Catcher Circle                                          109 Broad Street, P. O. Box 519
Morgantown, WV 26508                                            Granville WV 26534-0519

cc: WV/PA Watershed Groups, US-EPA, US-ACE, USGS, WV-DEP, Gov. Rendell, PA-DEP

Attachments (2).  Editorial and Resolutions.

Attachment 1

Morgantown Dominion Post, Page 10-A,  Monday, September 27,  2010:

EDITORIAL:  “Task force far too up to its task”
“Lopsided appointments of gas industry reps cause for concern about drilling”

Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. And in this case, it’s a hungry fox to boot. At least that’s the perception we got from last week’s appointment of six natural gas company representatives to a new nine-member task force to help the state better regulate the industry. We realize that this panel, appointed by the state’s director of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), will not actually be writing the regulations and legislation on how to regulate this industry. Or at least that’s what we are being led to believe.

The DEP’s staff will be charged with that task, while this panel will attempt to reach a consensus on the issues. That might not be too hard to do, considering the only real differences of opinion will come from the lone representative of the West Virginia Environmental Council and an advocate for landowner’s rights. The ninth member of the panel is a coal industry lawyer, who represents the West Virginia Coal Association.

No one should overestimate the scope and authority of this task force, however, we can assure the DEP and this group that we’ll be watching.

Clearly, the state needs to determine how to better regulate our booming natural gas industry. We also understand the logic of considering a dual regulatory system — one for conventional gas drilling and another for the burgeoning Marcellus shale drilling.

And no one is questioning why there should be industry representatives on this task force. However, the number of appointments of executives and lawyers for this industry is weighed far too heavily in the industry’s favor.
With all due respect to these industry appointees, some who have served in public regulatory roles, too, these appointments raise eyebrows.

Yes, they bring diverse outlooks, technical knowledge and pragmatic advice to the table, but they also bring their industry’s primary goal to the head of the well: Their profit margin.

No one here is opposed to that, but regulation of this industry must balance a return on investment with reasonable regulation and oversight.

Otherwise, these drilling operations may pose dangerous risks to our state’s aquifer, our waterways, our roads, our landscape and landowners’ rights.

This panel’s lopsided make-up leads us to believe there’s reason to fear all of that.

We urge the DEP to review the composition of this panel and even appoint someone who isn’t a stakeholder to this task force before the chickens come home to roost.

Attachment 2


We recognize the value of mineral extraction, including coal, oil, gas and water, in the Monongahela basin and adjoining areas, when conducted responsibly.  But, the current and projected levels of Marcellus shale drilling for natural gas production and the manner in which it is being conducted poses very serious problems for most all of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.


1. The West Virginia and Pennsylvania DEPs must enact commensurate and enforceable standards and rules/regulations and adequate penalties to protect regional water resources from potential hazards caused by mineral extraction and oil and gas drilling, including but not limited to sedimentation, water withdrawal, organic and inorganic chemicals and thermal effects.

2. The West Virginia and Pennsylvania DEPs must hire an additional and adequate number of inspectors and other staff to effectively monitor and enforce regulations governing mining and the oil and gas well industries.

3. The Upper Monongahela watershed groups advocate that closed-loop systems for containment of blowback water be required at all new construction gas well drilling sites rather than the open pit system of containment.

4. If open pits exist or are absolutely necessary, these should provide sufficient natural or geosynthetic protection to both contain the blowback water and to prevent its percolation into the soil or groundwater beneath the pit should the containment liner become ruptured. Further, we advocate the usage of regulations typically found in state dam safety statutes in order to ensure that blowback pits are properly sited and constructed, and that emergency contact/notification procedures are implemented when an accident involving the release of blowback water occurs.


5.West Virginia and Pennsylvania rivers and streams frequently experience very low flows because of reduced rainfall. At these critically low flows, water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas well activities threaten aquatic life in many streams. And, more generally, the waters of both States must be shared among the diverse uses from agriculture to industry to recreation to domestic use. This includes both surface and sub-surface water resources. Therefore, the withdrawal of water from any source for high volume applications as Marcellus Shale drilling, fracking or other operations must be regulated and require permits from an appropriate State agency.

6. The Program Review in the Office of Oil and Gas of the WV DEP is clearly useful with a projected Final Report date of December 2010. However, this Review of oil and gas exploration and production activities in West Virginia is inadequate in and of itself. The issues and problems of this industry sector are huge and diverse and they directly involve many other agencies of State government; and, these problems are interrelated to the other extractive industries. A state-wide review is urgently needed, one that is directed from the Office of the Governor. And, a Special Session of the WV Legislature would appear to be called for to address these problems and issues that include the protection of our water, air and land as well as our roads, our scenic values and quality of life. Each extractive activity should be responsible for the cost of all the environmental and socio-economic impacts resulting from its activities, taking into account both short and long-term impacts.

7. The issues and problems affecting WV and PA as a result of the current and projected levels of activity for coal mining and natural gas production are of an inter-state or national character. Here in northern WV and southwestern PA we have many such operations that cross state lines. One major issue is the drinking water for approximately one million people in southwestern Pennsylvania that comes from the Monongahela River, which drains most of northcentral WV. This and the other streams will likely increase in their total loads of pollutants. Therefore, the US Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Geological Survey and other federal agencies should prepare a “guidance document” and respond quickly to the water and aqueous waste problems of the extractive industries now affecting New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other States.

8. An Interagency Task Force study within the United States government is needed to examine the existing problems posed by the extractive industries in the United States. This would aim to establish a viable long range Planning Office that can anticipate many of the problems such as those posed by Marcellus Shale gas exploration and production. The focus would be on environment impacts and socio-economic dislocations such as public infrastructure damages and domestic disturbance problems.

NOTE: The above Resolutions were adopted by consensus at the First and Second WV-PA Watershed Group Meetings on August 17, 2010 and September 22, 2010 at the Morgantown Airport. These meetings were organized and conducted by the representatives of various watershed and conservation groups in cooperation with the Upper Monongahela River Association (www.uppermon.org).