Draw Conclusions Your Own
Environmental Agency’s Inability to Make Recommendation Doesn’t
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.