Mineral owner in West Virginia observes reckless oil and gas industry practices and poor state oversight

Howard Clark is a mineral owner in Marion County, West Virginia who writes: "Although I am an avid supporter of the use of our natural resources, it must be done in an environmentally responsible manner." He is concerned about the lack of enforcement of existing regulations by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas.

Mr. Clark has a lot of experience with environmental responsibility. He started his career as the District Manager at the Monongahela Conservation District. He now writes: "As a mineral owner, throughout the development of lease and surface use agreement negotiations, I insisted on all environmental regulations being followed. I expected the cooperation of inspectors from DEP-Office of Oil and Gas to see this through fruition."

Tragically, this is not the case, and now Mr. Clark is observing extensive environmental damage on his property, including pollution of a stream. Among his observations:

  • Erosion and Sediment infractions were consistently evident throughout the construction process.
  • Within three weeks of drill rig arrival chloride levels in effluent from sediment basin were 100 X stream baseline levels (tests were conducted by SAIC, Test America).
  • More recently foam is forming on surface of stream.
  • It is evident from water analyses and pictures that some fluid is leaving drill pad.

He says that, while the levels of contaminant being spilled may now be small, the operations on his property are approaching the latter stages of drilling and fracking.  "Drilling mud with an excess of 15,000 mg/l chloride will be used; while frac fluid containing ethylene glycol and other hazardous compounds will also be used. These will follow the same path of escape from pad to stream, if leak is not repaired soon."

Mr. Clark has spoken to state regulators and sent them photos and copies of water tests, but they have taken no action to enforce remediation of current problems or to prevent future harm. He is one of a growing number of industry supporters who are calling on the industry to clean up its dirty practices and pointing out that state regulators are not fulfilling their responsibilities to protect public health and the environment.