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New Gas Drilling Methods Will Damage State Parks
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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2009

No where seems to be off-limits to the extractive idustries in West Virginia!

Gas Drilling in WV State Parks?

A recent court case has placed the entire West Virginia State Parks system at risk. What began in Chief Logan State Park could very well open nearly all our state parks to gas drilling and development if allowed to stand. One fundamental problem is the “divided estate” land ownership regime we live with in West Virginia. This is the system in which one person or entity may own land, but someone else may own the minerals under the land. This is just as true in the state parks as it is in people’s own personal homes.
State Park photoIf one State Park falls to gas drilling can others be far behind? (photo of Blackwater Falls State Park by Jim Soonyers)
The Foot in the Park Door

In short, Cabot Oil and Gas filed an application for a permit to drill for gas in Chief Logan State Park. The WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) denied the permit. Cabot then appealed to Logan County Court, and the court ruled in favor of Cabot. As this issue goes to press, WV Sierra Club and others have asked for, and been granted, the right to become interveners in the case. A 60-day period is running during which the judge can reconsider if he so chooses, and we and the other interveners can prepare for further court action.

What Cabot Wants in Chief Logan, and Why It Matters

Although there was discussion of drilling a gas well in the Park, we know that in actuality Cabot intends to drill 35–50 gas wells there. This is in a park with a total acreage of approximately 4,000 acres.

Many citizens have a mental picture of gas development that is now outdated. In earlier times, gas drilling and gas development may have seemed almost benign. The new way is altogether different, and much more damaging. This is drilling for gas in what is called Marcellus shale – a newly targeted gas stratum.

Impact of Marcellus Gas Drilling and Development

The risk the state parks overall face is not from the relatively shallow well drilling that has historically occurred in this state. West Virginia is the only state in the country that falls entirely within the geological formation known as the “Marcellus shale.” The potential gas reserves in this formation have set off a spasm of speculation throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia, all for the opportunity to drill wells as deep as 8,000 feet, a depth which is many times the depth of West Virginia’s past shallow wells.

The environmental degradation that accompanies drilling in the Marcellus shale is also exponentially greater. The damage to water supplies and the requirements for disposal of toxic waste are now well documented and the subject of ongoing investigations in many jurisdictions. In addition, of course, there are extensive roads and pipelines, heavy ongoing 18-wheeler traffic, clearcuts, and more. This kind of  gas field development may, or may not, have an appropriate place – but it is absolutely clear that our state parks are not that place. Environmental ruin is what our state park system faces if gas development is allowed there.

Domino Effect

The first park to face the immediate threat is Chief Logan. This is a park that is well loved by the citizens of Logan County. It is the scene of all kinds of group and family gatherings and events and much more. But if gas development is permitted there, it would be the first in a chain of dominoes. Once Chief Logan would fall, it would only be a matter of time until the same fate befalls whichever is your favorite state park. We already know that giant gas companies would target Twin Falls next, and then, who knows?

State Parks – West Virginia’s Crown Jewels

We come to our State Parks to hike, picnic, swim, play, meet friends and family, and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. Gas development has no place in the State Parks — it would damage all the values West Virginians hold dear in the State Parks. We simply can’t allow it.

What You Can Do:

Contact Governor Manchin. Ask him to direct his state agencies to act aggressively to prevent gas development in the state parks. Contact Governor Manchin by:

Mail:
1900 Kanawha Blvd, East
Charleston, WV 25305

Phone (Toll-Free): 1-888-438-2731
Email: Governor@WVGov.org

Contact your West Virginia House of Delegates Representative and Senator. Ask them to take action to protect the state parks. Find out who they are and how to contact them at:

http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Districts/district_zip/zipmems.cfmjim_scon@yahoo.com, 304-698-9628, or Karen Grubb, kgrubb@fairmontstate.edu , 304-366-0515.

Make a donation: The campaign to protect the State Parks will take money. Go to the WV Sierra Club website and use our new capability for online donations. http://westvirginia.sierraclub.org/

VOLUNTEER:  Help with the campaign to protect the state parks. Contact: Jim Sconyers,

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