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Gas Development in the State Parks?
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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2010

The last issue of Mountain State Sierran gave a full description of the threat gas field development poses to the entire West Virginia state park system. In short, if gas drilling is permitted in Chief Logan State Park, then Chief Logan and all the other state parks will be vulnerable to serious and severe degradation. In this issue, we encapsulate recent developments.

Cabot Oil and Gas applied to the WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) for a permit to drill for gas in Chief Logan State Park. The WVDEP denied the permit, and Cabot appealed the DEP denial. In June 2009, Judge Perry of the Logan County Circuit Court granted Cabot’s appeal, in effect giving Cabot the green light for gas drilling in the Park.

On September 17, 2009, West Virginia Sierra Club submitted a motion asking to become an intervener in Cabot’s appeal. Our petition asked that Judge Perry withdraw his decision to grant Cabot’s appeal of the denial of their drilling permit. WV Sierra Club argued that the WVDEP has full statutory authority to enforce the environmental policy of the state of West Virginia. This authority includes the declaration by the West Virginia Legislature that oil and gas drilling is not permitted in our state parks.

At a hearing on October 2, 2009, Judge Perry granted motions to become interveners to Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Friends of Blackwater, former state parks chief Cordie Hudkins, and an oral motion for intervener status to the WVDNR. At the same time, Judge Perry rejected the request to reverse his September 17 decision. In other words, his decision that the WVDEP must give Cabot the drilling permit stands.

We will be filing a petition to appeal Judge Perry’s decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court. This petition was submitted in late December 2009. Watch future editions of Mountain State Sierran and the WV Sierra Club website (http://westvirginia.sierraclub.org ) for new developments in the new year.

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