West Virginians facing crucial quality of life issues with the onslaught of the deep shale oil and gas industry are banding together for the sake of their communities.
On Dec. 15, more than 40 people representing 30 citizen groups from across West Virginia, as well as one Virginia group, gathered to meet one another and to discuss each group’s work surrounding deep shale oil and gas issues.
The various groups and coalitions work to address one or more of the detrimental impacts of oil and gas production on communities, human health and the environment that arise from activities associated with deep shale hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
Their concerns include property rights, air, water and noise pollution, compressors stations, water withdrawal from our state’s streams and rivers, pipelines, wastewater treatment facilities, waste disposal and waste transportation, as well as public policy proposals looming when the West Virginia Legislature begins its regular legislative session this January 2016.
Attendees included representatives of community action groups, based in areas where the rural way of life and the environment are directly impacted by fracking/gas, as well as members of statewide organizations such as the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization, West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. Also in attendance were leaders from the faith community, scientists and public policy/economic professionals.
“Monroe County citizens are broadly mobilized to focus on blocking the development of frack gas infrastructures,” said Monroe County resident Laurie Ardison, who is with Preserve Monroe and POWHR, Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights, which is an interstate coalition group working to protect the water, local ecology, heritage, land rights and human rights of individuals, communities and regions from harms caused by the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures.
“We have an opportunity to develop clean jobs with renewables and cheaper energy efficiency programs. Locking us into fossil fuels for the future is going to pull us away from forward thinking economic development,” said April Keating with the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance.
“Clearly, we can increase our capacity and impact when we work together towards common goals,” said Janet Keating, the principal organizer of the meeting and executive director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, based in Huntington.
“Coming together from across the state working on various issues related to shale gas development, we learned common concerns connect us,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We see a need to work together to set the best way forward for a healthy environment and economic future for our state.”
“There are negative health consequences for the people who live near fracking sites. It is time for policy makers and the industry to recognize that people who live next to natural gas facilities are paying a high price,” said Conni Gratop Lewis of the WV Environmental Council.
Another attendee stated, “The meeting was an energizing experience for me. I had been feeling a bit burned out lately, but now I feel like we may have a chance of beating this assault.”
“From pipelines cutting through the highland mountains to waste inundating the lowland fields and wetlands, the recent boom of oil and gas development is as harmful to many as it is economically beneficial to a few,” said Cindy Rank of the WV Highlands Conservancy. “As the region celebrates any short term economic gains, we must also fight to preserve the air we breathe, the water we rely on, the forests we enjoy, and the health of those who live near the drilling and production operations.”