Judge Denies Motion On Morgantown Fracking Ban

Monongalia County Circuit Judge Russell Clawges has denied a motion filed by Northeast Natural Energy, which sought a temporary restraining order to bar the city of Morgantown from enforcing a just-approved ban on gas drilling that involves hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking in or near the city, said WV Metro News.

In fracking, a cocktail of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into the ground at high pressure to shake gas and oil deposits loose. Opponents of fracking are concerned that this type of natural gas drilling could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources, either through the release of naturally-occurring hazardous substances or as a result of spills or leaks involving fracking fluid or fracking wastewater.

“While we had hoped to avoid legal action, it has become apparent that the judicial system is the only recourse to protect our rights and investment in our wells in the Morgantown Industrial Park,” said Northeast President Mike John, wrote WV Metro News. “We are seeking a declaration that the Morgantown Ordinance is preempted by State law, violates our company’s constitutional rights, and is otherwise invalid due to procedural defects,” John added.

The Morgantown City Council passed the ordinance over concerns about drilling close to the city, said WV Metro, which noted that the ordinance prohibits fracking in the city and within one mile outside city limits. Northeast’s drilling operation is at the Morgantown Industrial Park, within the one mile perimeter, noted WV Metro News.

WV Metro News said that city officials are worried about the proximity of the operation to the city and are afraid that a spill involving fracking fluids could contaminate the city’s water supply, which is located across the Monongahela River, downstream from the drilling location. Northeast disagrees, saying the operations are safe, legal, and allowable via permits with the state’s Division of Environmental Protection

The city’s concerns are viable. We recently reported that a new study is raising some serious questions about the wastewater produced as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. According to a study from the U.S. Forest Service, fracking flowback water can be deadly to plant life.

The new study, conducted by Mary Beth Adams, found that groundcover exposed to fracking water died almost immediately, while leaves on trees in the research area began to turn brown after two days. Within two years, more than half of 150 trees in the area died. Testing also found that surface soil concentrations of sodium and chloride increased 50-fold as a result of the fracking fluids. The saltiness of the fluid is what caused the vegetation die-off.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said Adam’s study suggests that fracking fluids should be treated as toxic waste.

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