W.Va.’s air quality not impacted by drilling

PARKERSBURG – A state study has said West Virginia’s air quality will not be impacted by natural gas drilling operations in the state.

State lawmakers were presented with the study’s results during an interim committee meeting this week.

The report was created by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas. It looked at the impact of fracking, a process in which water and sand are injected underground to access deposits of shale oil and gas.

The report relied on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data at a Monongalia County elementary school.

The report says there were no indications of a public health emergency or threat based on air quality monitoring data.

”This study simply confirmed what the industry already knew,” said Denny Harton of GasSearch Corp. in Parkersburg. ”Simply put, the state and federal agencies studied the effects drilling, fracking and processing natural gas have on air quality and found there was no reason for concern.

”This is in part because the industry is already heavily regulated and companies performing this type of work are responsible operators who are well trained and understand how to manage the entire processes using environmentally friendly methods. There is no reason to believe that drilling or fracking will have any significant impact on the environment and certainly not when viewed over a longer period of time,” Harton said.

James Lydon, chairman of the Wirt County Oil and Gas Group, an association of landowners who have joined together to present a large parcel of land for gas companies to consider natural gas drilling, said the report shows the state is doing an adequate job of monitoring the emerging natural gas operations and working with companies to make sure rules are being followed.

The report is good news to the group as it is negotiating with companies for the use of land, Lydon said.

The state passed laws and statutes in anticipation of the increase in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.

”There are good statutes on the books,” Lydon said.

Also, many companies are working on improving their operations, making them more efficient, cleaner and more cost effective, he said.

”In many cases, improvements are made without laws having to change,” Lydon said. ”Through new technologies, companies get better.”

Harton said the study provides comfort to those who might be considering making investments in this region without being concerned about government agencies creating more obstacles that will inhibit economic growth.

”Long-term benefits from retaining the necessary capital to build the infrastructure that will be necessary could provide billions of dollars of economic benefit to the region along with many good jobs that would be created,” he said. ”Our region is blessed with many natural resources and it is time that people in the region begin to see some benefit from it.

”With all of the turmoil that exists in the proximity of the energy exporting nations around the world, providing sound economic and environmentally safe sources of energy will be helpful in our pursuit for energy independence,” Harton said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)