Draw Conclusions Your Own

Environmental Agency’s Inability to Make Recommendation Doesn’t Sit Well

Morgantown Dominion Post - EDITORIAL
26 August 2013

We are not about to start referring to it as the Department of Environmental Prevarication, yet. But after listening to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Office of Oil and Gas chief outline the results of $1 million in studies of gas well pads, we’re about done quibbling over this issue.

Instead of concrete recommendations from the DEP in light of the new data, we’re still stuck in the mud. To date, the only concrete recommendation from the DEP as a result of three studies involving gas well pads is that the Legislature should reconsider well pad setbacks. And even that recommendation does not cite a number, only that an unspecified distance should be mandated from the border of the well pad, instead of the current 625 feet from the center of the pad.

The DEP did make some suggestions on what it referred to as “nuisance-related concerns.” Even those suggestions, though, appear to hide behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s danger and health thresholds. For instance, though noise levels did not surpass the EPA’s standard for hearing loss, many exceeded levels that would affect sleep and health.

Regarding volatile organic compounds released by idling big trucks, it suggested police enforce idling vehicle laws. Perhaps none of this information equates a public health emergency, yet it definitely rises to a level far exceeding a nuisance, especially, when its on your land, your road or in your community.

And calling on the DEP to resolve environmental complaints, at times, is almost akin to asking the arsonist to help put out the fire. No, the DEP didn’t start the fire, but it’s charged with helping to put it out. The DEP might be well qualified to fill out the paperwork, but it often appears more interested in protecting operators than citizens. It’s clear the DEP’s recommendation and suggestions fall far short of what legislators intended to achieve by these studies.

Another thing that’s clear: The Legislature has little to no choice but to propose further studies on gas well pads. It also needs to give the DEP unequivocal direction about its expectations from what is discovered. Urging this agency to study the same thing and expecting different results is not insane.

Of course, there’s a real chance it may garble further findings to avoid sticking its neck out. However, if it happens again, no one’s going to split hairs anymore.

Indeed, we’ll call for the DEP’s heads.