Wetzel County Action Group
Home Index Links Contacts

Letter to Governor from Woody Ray

Link to replies.

     The purpose of my letter is to ask you to support a comprehensive review of the existing process used to grant permits for exploring and extracting natural resources in West Virginia.  There are several companies presently conducting extensive gas/oil operations in Wetzel County, and this activity has increased dramatically in the last two years.    

      I appreciate the many benefits the state and our communities gain from these operations.  Our nation needs these resources to lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy.  The companies conducting these operations are engaged in a legitimate business, and they work hard to comply with state laws and regulations.  In our community of Silver Hill, located in Wetzel County, we find the men and women employed by these companies to be hardworking professionals who are courteous, respectful and honest. 

      Nevertheless, the impact of drilling and exploration operations in our community is profound.  Our roads have deteriorated and are almost impassable in some places.  The poor road conditions exact a heavy toll on our vehicles and our patience.  There has been a huge increase in noise and dust as well as heavy truck traffic.  Sharing the roads with significantly increased numbers of large vehicles and oversized loads makes driving more dangerous and much more difficult.

      There are visible environmental impacts and dramatic changes in the landscape around well pads, and the flow of water in many streams is affected as companies use large amounts of water for their ongoing operations.  The environmental impacts not so easily seen are an even greater concern.  I believe there is significant potential for our underground aquifers to be affected, which could have unforeseen and long lasting effects.  In short, the quality of life in our communities has been altered by ongoing industrial operations in Wetzel County.

      The challenge we face is that of achieving a balance that best accommodates the needs of all parties concerned.  Our nation needs the energy, our state and local communities need the revenue and jobs created by this activity, and the citizens in affected communities need to know that our state government is doing everything possible to minimize the impact on their quality of life. 

      From my research and the discussions I have had with local residents as well as local and state officials, I believe our state lacks a comprehensive, coordinated permitting process.  It is also clear that we suffer from ineffective enforcement of existing regulatory guidance.  The existing process simply does not adequately address the impact of these operations on our environment, our infrastructure, and the quality of life for West Virginians.

      We need your support and executive leadership to initiate and guide this action.  I understand that reviewing and refining the permitting process is a complex task, but I believe we could dramatically improve the existing system.  Much of our present process is no doubt sound, and could be much more effective if it were integrated with infrastructure programs and plans. Because our state legislators have valuable experience in this area, I am also asking them to lend their expertise to this effort.

      There are a number of intelligent, talented individuals in this community who will be happy to work with state and local officials to improve the present permitting processes.  We want to be a part of a positive effort, not a critical one, and we will devote our time, our skills and our best efforts to improving the present process. Accomplishing this will benefit the citizens of West Virginia now and our children in the decades to come.