Good afternoon to our leaders in Charleston and thank you for your service to our beautiful state. For those of you who do not know me, I am a native West Virginian from Beckley and I’ve had the honor and privilege to live in numerous other areas of our state, as well, including Athens, Morgantown, Elkins, Summersville, and now Martinsburg.
I am writing you today in regard to an issue that concerns me greatly. I have followed the Marcellus Shale debate for some time now. I have also watched as energy companies for decades have trampled on the rights of citizens (and our military) in the name of profit. Now some of those same companies are lobbying you to open doors for their drilling of Marcellus Shale, and I worry that their lobbying efforts in this regard are both self-serving and deceptive. Jobs and a clean and safe environment are not mutually exclusive interests. We can have both, and right now you are holding all the cards. The Marcellus Shale is not going anywhere. And this is not like the Macy’s or Toyota projects where West Virginia is competing with other states for the business. We rely on our legislators to leverage our interests effectively so that West Virginia can be a great place to live both from a natural resource standpoint and an economic one. Therefore, I ask that before you act on Marcellus Shale, you have confidence in the answers to the following questions and can rest assured that you have found the right balance in interests:
1. Are we getting enough out of impact and administrative fees from the companies to properly monitor environmental concerns and address issues as they arise? Consider what the cost of regulation and enforcement will be and make sure the energy companies are paying enough on the front end to cover the costs of administration once the drilling begins.
2. Are there measures in place to ensure that we can change directions quickly if it becomes apparent that the impact of drilling is too costly to our environment, our drinking water, or to the natural resources that our children and their children will have access to? Consider whether smaller steps might be more appropriate than taking a giant leap into massive drilling efforts.
3. Have you determined what sanctions will be available for non-compliance and will proper bonding or other protections be put in place to ensure that such sanctions have adequate force and consequences to those who would adversely affect our state’s interest in a clean and safe environment? Consider how different our economy and the environment might be had the proper oversight structures been established years ago in industries like coal and timber.
4. Are the hired experts’ opinions based on non-biased objective data? Consider what influence gifts like Halliburton’s $10 million to WVU have on those opinions and insist that such gifts are not designed to be subtle pay-offs to our state’s scholars in the fields of geology and environmental science.
5. What impact will run-off of fluids related to hydraulic fracturing have on the state’s ability to comply with Chesapeake Bay mandates? The Eastern Panhandle continues to offer great benefits to our state as a whole. Crippling its municipalities with incredible costs associated with Chesapeake Bay environmental compliance could adversely affect the future of the entire state.
We are all counting on you as our legislators to make the right decisions. We are counting on you to recognize special interests for what they are and to avoid for yourselves the temptation to garner short term gains from those interests at the expense of honoring your duty to represent the people of West Virginia. Please do the right thing by our state and its people. Thank you for considering these issues and best wishes to you during this special session.
Sincerely & Respectfully,