CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The toxic chemical spill in the Elk River has received state, national and international attention -- and it should. Our Legislature is trying, after the fact, to pass Senate Bill 373 to assure this disaster affecting the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians does not happen again.
It's interesting how we can get fast legislative action when there is a disaster that affects a large number of constituents. But what about all the central and northern West Virginians who have had and will have future water problems and contaminations as a result of Marcellus shale drilling?
Why can't our Legislature, in session now, also fix the current and future water problems of rural folks while they are putting a law into place to protect folks around Charleston and other public water systems?
Three regulations can be amended now to protect the water for all citizens:
1. Why can't the Legislature work together now in this time of crisis to also fix HB 401 to require Marcellus well pads to be 1,320 feet from a person's home to protect their families from the future potential of undrinkable water supplies?
In December 2011, the Legislature passed HB 401 which set a regulation that a Marcellus well could be drilled no less than 625 feet from an occupied dwelling or large structure housing dairy cattle or poultry. A better limit (1,320 feet) is one-quarter mile and should work to protect a rural West Virginians' wells, springs and streams from potential toxic chemical pollution.
2. HB 401 should be amended to read "No Marcellus shale drilling within 1,320 feet of a landowner's stream or pond." This is our water and it needs protection all across our state, not just in Charleston and not just public water supplies.
HB 401 further states: No well pad may be prepared or well drilled within 100 feet measured horizontally from any perennial stream, natural or artificial lake, pond or reservoir, or a wetland, or within 300 feet of a naturally reproducing trout stream.