The State of West Virginia considers its Class II wells, to be the best available technology for the disposal of Marcellus-produced hydrofracking waste. Although the WV Department of Environmental Protection “DEP” has gone to extreme lengths to support that theory, other states have rejected their Class II “brine” wells as dangerously outmoded due to the toxic nature of the pollutants generated by the modern development of high pressure high volume horizontal hydrofracking to extract natural gas and other fluids from “unconventional” sources.
The State of New York recently banned hydrofracking altogether, after having two of its agencies study the process for over three years. The NY Department of Health’s 184 page report A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturingfor Shale Gas Development details why the Empire State declined to risk the health of her citizens for industry profit. The pressure to ban fracking was largely due to active participation by New York’s health care and science professionals.
In West Virginia, our doctors and scientists have mostly been silent even as cancer treatment centers have spring up all across the State.
Our DEP has downplayed the threat to the environment, ignoring numerous pollutants known to be both pervasive and pernicious. Recent evidence has come to light demonstrating that agency regulators are either unwilling or unprepared to deal with these dangers. Political leaders who rely on agency to study and advise them through promulgation of rules to be passed into law have vested interests in prolonging the problems.
The Energy Policy Act passed in Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in the summer of 2005. Dubbed by environmental and health advocates as the “Halliburton Loophole,” specific exemptions were carved out to allows State regulators to dispose of what would otherwise be considered hazardous waste in improperly regulated Class II wells, only if is generated during drilling and exploration of oil and gas.
In other words, had Congress not passed Dick Cheney’s Halliburton Loophole, those industrial wastes would be required to be injected into duly authorized hazardous waste sites, known as Class I injection wells, not one of which is located in West Virginia. The geological safety requirements are too stringent to support Class I well sites. So the DEP refuses to properly classify the waste, which enables companies to inject it in far less secure Class II UIC wells.
According to the EPA, there are over seven hundred such wells in West Virginia, several of which are located in Fayette County, WV, operating without a permit on a waiver from the DEP. That waiver was issued despite the operation being direct;y associated with pollution found upstream from Fayetteville’s drinking water plant intakes.
Regarding that association, several documents stand out as being particularly revealing as to where the pollution is coming from, and just how far the DEP has gone to cover up the problem, beginning with the refusal to waive fees associated with a FOIA request I made to the DEP a number of months ago:
Your request for a fee waiver for the below request (FOIA#2014-12-092) is denied. We granted your request for a fee waiver on FOIA #2014-02-123 because it was pending for nearly a year. I will have the Office of Oil & Gas prepare a fee estimate prior to fulfilling your request. You also have the option of making an appointment to come into our office to view the documents (search fees may apply).
Also, to clarify, we are accepting comments on the Danny Webb permit applications through January 17, 2015 but the public hearing is actually January 7, 2015 at Oak Hill High School from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. There will be information stations set up at that hearing where you will be able to ask questions of Office of Oil & Gas officials.
Some of the information you are looking for may be found at http://www.dep.wv.gov/oil-and-gas/databaseinfo/Pages/UIC-Pending-Applications-.aspx.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.
WV DEP – Public Information Office
601 57th Street, SE
Below is the downloadable PDF form of the text of my FOIA request and the DEP’s response, including attached documents.
DEP FOIA#2014-12-092 LOCHGELLY #1