Pipeline project not popular with West Virginia residents

By: Mike Marsh

The Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, commonly refereed to as MVP, announced late last week that they are filing suit against 100 West Virginia residents who have refused to allow access to their properties for surveys. MVP claims that eminent domain, which is the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation, gives them the right to this access, even though they have not yet filed an official application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The MVP sees high economic potential in the state of West Virginia. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin appears to agree.

Tomblin says “West Virginia continues to be one of our nation’s energy leaders, and the [MVP] will help create new construction jobs for our workforce and identify markets for our state’s abundant supply of natural gas. We appreciate…our state and their willingness to work with local economic developers to provide natural gas service in areas that would benefit from both new industry and downstream growth. These investments have the potential to create good-paying jobs and by keeping key byproducts in our state…”

Some residents in West Virginia do not see the project as positively. Lawsuits were filed against residents across 10 W. Va. counties along the new corridor of gas line projects, which were recently proposed in February, because they did think MVP had the right to conduct this project on private property. The MVP provides list of all the counties in West Virginia that will be effected by the project with individual maps that show exactly where the line will be dug once the project begins.

This is a map showing the whole area of West Virginia and surrounding states where the proposed gas line will run through.

MVP-Rev3-3-Overall-10132014

A lot of the opposition has come from residents in Southern West Virginia, who oppose one of the big natural gas transmission lines which has been proposed by MVP to transport gas from fracking areas in the state southward. Several active grassroots groups have formed trying to oppose the line and preserve the land that the people value.

This is pretty characteristic of rural West Virginia’s attitudes in recent decades. People living in southern West Virginia are very attached to the land, perhaps due in part to the long history of agriculture. Many people who’ve moved to this part of the state lately have done so because of their attraction to this sort of landscape.

It is easy to see how people become distraught at the thought of things like this, which are seen as encroachments on their private property. The farming history in West Virginia speaks for itself and when time and resources are put in to maintaining private property for agricultural purposes, there is going to be opposition to anything requires digging up someone’s source of livelihood. The video below flips through some pictures of what a pipeline digging site in West Virginia looks like. This isn’t a small operation by any means and it’s evident parts of the land get pretty torn up.

The criticism towards MVP is not the first time counties in Southern West Virginia vouched to protect their land. Similar opposition successfully stopped a 765kv electric transmission line and a proposed 4-lane upgrade of Rt. 219 all within the last 10 or 15 years.

The West Virginia Surface Owner’s Rights Association offers advice to residents who are wondering about what they can do legally when it comes to oil and gas drilling that is planned to be conducted on their property. They believe that a gas driller, producer, or operator should not have the power of eminent domain to lay its gas lines from its gas wells to compressor stations. In their opinion it is clearly a private, not public, purpose.

The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association are on board with the MVP project. They are confident that MVP will facilitate natural gas transpiration and make it a lot easier for gas collected from drilling operations to reach oil and gas processors in the south. The WVONGA have a cumulative investment of nearly $10 billion in W. Va. They have more than 15,000 miles of pipeline throughout the state, own about 20,000 oil and gas wells, and provide oil and natural gas to roughly 300,000 W. Va. homes and businesses.

It makes sense that the people in the community are hesitant to let these projects come in and start installing pipelines underneath their property, but with compensation being offered to those in locations where the lines need to be constructed and assurance that once they are finished the property will be restored, it is not an too unfair of a proposition. As it stands, the project is scheduled to begin in December of 2016.

This is the current timeline for the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project. Once started, the gas line should be in service by mid-2018:

TimelineIllustrated_MVP_111214

 

 

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West Virginia and climate change

By: Carley Posey

I’m sure we have all noticed that in the last couple of years our seasons sometimes seem out of whack. Could climate change have something to do with it? I think back to just this previous year and how I was driving to my parents for Christmas Eve with the windows down,  how the worst snow we got came in late February and March, and how even in late April we are dipping down into the 30’s at night and sometimes not warming up much during the day. One thing we are getting is plenty of rain, but we have other states struggling with drought like California. Yet with all of this going on as a state we can’t decide how to teach climate change, yet I think we are living it.

climate change

Climate change refers to a change in weather patterns over a long period of time such as a decade or longer. I hesitate to call this climate change for West Virginia, but it sure seems like the last decade of weather has been changing as we have gotten snow earlier and earlier and sometimes even late into the season. Last year we has so much rain it was hard to actually dry out.

climate change2

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that Earth’s overall temperature has risen 1.4 degrees in the last century and they look for it to raise another 2 to 11.5 over the next century.  Not only does climate change affect our weather, but it has been tied to some health problems. It can worsen smog and increase pollen production which can gravely affect breathing for some West Virginians. We could also deal with extreme heat that could lead to dehydration and heat stroke, and with more heat comes more insects especially those that carry infectious diseases such as those carried by mosquitos.

However, not everything goes together. West Virginia has already experienced times of drought, flooding, and just extreme weather in general. The swings of the weather will only become worse as climate change becomes worse. In 2011 alone, West Virginia counties broke heat, rain, and snow fall records.

Not all of the problems with climate change are solely linked to weather though, West Virginia school boards have been debating for the last year or so how to proceed on teaching climate change in school. In December 2014, the board decided to alter the way climate change was being taught in West Virginia schools. The change was thought to encourage students to debate on climate change and be able to form their own opinions on it. However, just a month later the board voted to go back to the old way of teaching because students need to learn the facts about climate change.

There is a lot more research that needs to be done on climate change, but sadly I think a lot of it will just need to be observed to be understood.

Air pollution is surrounding the Morgantown area

Hello Morgantowners,
Those of you walking on Beechurst day to day, you should be aware that your life is at risk. Not by drunk students. Not by burning couches. Not by parking. But, by the toxic fumes emitted by all the vehicles stuck in traffic and old coal-powered plants.

 

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Current traffic in Morgantown @ 11:30 a.m.

 

City officials have recognized that Morgantown’s air pollution is close to failing air quality standards regulated by  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Consequently, the city of Morgantown is at risk of losing federal funding. Without federal funding, Morgantown will be unable to design, develop and execute a plan to meet air quality standards or maintain its roads. Mountaineer News Service interviewed Jeff Mikorski, Morgantown’s interim City Manager, regarding the issue.

“If [non-attainment] happens, the EPA says we can’t use any federal money for anything other than cleaning up air quality,” said Mikorski.

Morgantown is exposed to three pollutants:

1) Sulfur dioxideMorgantown’s main air pollutant, which results from burning coal and crude oil in coal-powered plants. Congested vehicles within the city, also, add more to the problem.

2) Particulate matter: a wide range of pollutants — dust, soot, fly ash, diesel exhaust particles, wood smoke and sulfate aerosols — which are suspended as tiny particles in the air. These particulates irritate and damage human lungs. They come from vehicle exhausts and the burning of coal

3) ground level ozone: (smog) created by chemical reactions from fumes released by cars, trucks, and other vehicles.  Ozone levels trigger on hot, sunny days, but are also worse on cold, snowy days.

“Studies show that all of these pollutants can cause asthma attacks, lung disease and exacerbate heart conditions.” -Mountaineer News Service

So what can we do?

1) Address Morgantown’s traffic problem

2) Improving WVU’s public transportation systems (the PRT and Mountainline buses)

3) Limiting the number of commercial vehicles driving through the city

4) Destroy the obsolete coal-powered plant along the Mon River, which is not compliant with EPA regulations anyway

 

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Coal fired power plant in Maidsville, WV emits toxic fumes from its smoke stacks.

Photo credit: Mountaineer News Service

West Virginia is wild…but not so wonderful. Morgantown desperately needs a combined effort from students, residents, the university and the city.

 

Let’s clean up this mess!

West Virginia’s Water Problems Don’t Stop at the Border

We’ve discussed how rivers, streams, lakes, tributaries, watersheds, and all other bodies of water in the Mountain State that have been compromised due to human-induced environmental problems. Acid mine drainage (AMD), acid rain deposition, mountaintop removal, and the introduction of foreign species have all negatively affected West Virginia’s bodies of water; but it does not stop there. All of these factors are affecting more than just the wild and wonderful streams and rivers that West Virginia is known for, they are having an impact on the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean as well.

In 2012, the Potomac River was named America’s Most Endangered River. The river forms parts of the border between West Virginia and Virginia, as well as Maryland and the District of Columbia. This means that streams and smaller rivers in West Virginia that flow into the Potomac River, are feeding it with the same pollutants that I’ve already described in previous posts. This is not only a strong indication for more clean water protection, but a major wake-up call for the Mountain State and the federal government to continue taking measures to assure West Virginia streams and rivers stay clean and healthy. The Potomac River provides five million people with drinking water, and numerous others with outdoor recreational activities. As with the streams and rivers in West Virginia, these problems are also contributing to the water quality and the aquatic life in the Potomac River, according to the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River Basin. It is not just a state concern, it is a interstate concern that needs the cooperation of  both state and federal environmental agencies, as well as the citizens living in these states and the nation’s capital. And guess what? It needs the cooperation of even more than West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., because the Potomac River isn’t the only other body of water being affected. I bet most of you can already guess what comes next.

Yes, the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac River feeds straight into the Bay, which occupies more than just those three states and the federal district. The Chesapeake Bay runs from New York State, all the way down to Virginia. The problems associated in West Virginia’s bodies of water, flow into the Potomac River, which flows in to the Chesapeake Bay. It has long been known that the Chesapeake Bay is experiencing major environmental issues that have been produced by multiple factors from other states, including West Virginia. Along with all of the other states that I have previously mentioned, as well as the entire District of Columbia, that fall into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York. The major rivers that feed the Chesapeake Bay are the York, the James, the Rappahannock, the Susquehanna, and of course, the Potomac. Since the Potomac River is the only river that involves West Virginia’s relationship to the Chesapeake Bay, that is what this state needs to focus on taking care of in order to do its part in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. In 2002, West Virginia Governor Bob Wise officially signed the Chesapeake Bay Program Water Quality Initiative Memorandum of Understanding, making West Virginia a Headwaters Partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program.

By considering all of the factors and taking action for prevention, that I have talked about in previous posts to decrease the human-induced pollution and environmental issues in the streams and rivers of West Virginia, that will help make the Potomac cleaner, which will benefit the Chesapeake Bay. The state has started to take care of the AMD in their water, they’ve taken measures to decrease acid rain deposition, they are looking into alternatives to mountaintop removal, and they are determining how to repopulate their waters with native fish species. All of these factors will help clean up the Bay. This is because the cleanliness has to start somewhere, so if West Virginia can make sure that its waters are clean, then they have done their part in contributing to making sure that the Chesapeake Bay is clean.

It is interesting how what we do in the Mountain State, can have an impact on the Chesapeake Bay. It takes a cooperative approach from all of the states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and we’ve been positively progressing over the years. I’ll be interested to see what the status of the Bay is when I’m older. The aquatic life of the Bay’s ecosystem, as well as the health to humans who live near it all depends on the actions that these states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government take to clean it up.

 

Chronic Wasting Disease Hitting WV

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a neurological disease that affects mainly deer, has spread throughout West Virginia.  White-tail deer at Front Royal, the northern boundary of Shenandoah Park have been reported to contracting the disease.  CWD is progressing rapidly, since last reported 23 miles away from the site in 2009.

What is Chronic Wasting Disease

CWD is a transmissible, neurological disease.  It is most commonly found among deer and elk in north America.  The infected animals experience extreme weight loss, constant feeding and drinking, and constant urination.  The disease is fatal to those who contract it and is very easily transmitted.

Infected deer--cwd-info.com

Infected deer–cwd-info.com

CWD in North America--cwd-info.com

CWD in North America–cwd-info.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

How is Chronic Wasting Disease transmitted? 

There are several different ways in which CWD can be transmitted.  Bodily secretions, such as saliva, feces, and urination is one of the most common ways an animal could contract the disease.  However, the disease has become so widespread throughout the Northern United States due to humans transporting infected animals.

How has West Virginia been affected by Chronic Wasting Disease? 

Shenandoah Park was just the latest park to have been affected by CWD.  The state has found that 162 white-tail deer have been infected with CWD.  Several environmental agencies have teamed up to monitor the animals infected and stop the spread of this disease.  After testing over 15,000 deer, the labs showed that only 159 deer showed signs of CWD.

Although this number seems relatively small, the results are very alarming.  The number represents a direct threat to the white-tail deer, one of the biggest game for West Virginia hunting.

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WV Deer Harvest steady decline–wvdnr.com

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WV Deer Harvest–wvdnr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014, the white-tail harvest decreased 34% over the past five years, ranking in 34th over the past 74 years, according to West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources.  Unfortunately, CWD could impact hunting for the next several years. WVDNR predicts that 2015 will continue to decline.

Should hunters be concerned? 

As of now, studies show that humans do not run the risk of contracting the disease.  However, that does not mean that hunters should be exposing themselves to animals that have contracted CWD.  While there are no confirmed cases of animals transmitting the disease to humans, hunters can still be harmed from the infection.

How can hunters stay safe and healthy? 

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance offers several suggestions to hunters so they can hunt without fear. Hunters are “encouraged” to not eat venison meat that is thought to be diseased (I feel like it’s weird that hunters have to be encouraged–don’t eat sick deer meat, just don’t do it).  The alliance also recommends that hunters take the necessary and proper precautions when field dressing and processing.  These precautions include:

  • Wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing your deer, and wash your hands and tools thoroughly after completing this process.
  • Bone out the meat from your deer, do not saw through bone, avoid cutting through the brain or spinal cord and minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues. If you remove the skull cap to save the antlers, use a saw dedicated for only that purpose and dispose of saw blades in a landfill with your other household garbage.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize knives, equipment and work areas with household bleach solution after processing your deer.
  • Place unwanted carcass materials (e.g., bones, trimmings, etc.) in a strong garbage bag, and dispose of this material in a landfill with your other household garbage.
  • Avoid eating the brain, spinal cord, eyes, lymph nodes, spleen and tonsils of harvested deer. [Note that normal field dressing combined with de-boning the carcass removes most, if not all, these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue removes the remaining lymph nodes.]

WVDNR has banned baiting and feeding deer, as well as transporting game.  Baiting is a popular technique used widely among hunters in which they leave food is strategic locations in order to lure the game to an open area.  The division also banned the public from feeding wildlife statewide.  Hunters are also prohibited from moving meat or parts beyond the containment area.  With these measures, WVDNR hopes to stop the spread of this endemic.

 

 

 

Get the facts straight! Discrepancies in Congressman’s plan for West Virginia’s Highway Trust Fund

By: Mike Marsh 

West Virginia Republican Congressman, Alex Mooney, had an interesting proposition that stirred up controversy among West Virginia environmentalists and reporters. Last year when Mooney was running for a seat in the West Virginia Congress and was speaking during a West Virginia Business and Industry Council forum in Charleston, he was quoted saying “we should sell parts of our national parks to help fund the Highway Trust Fund.” His motive behind this proposition is that he claims 17 percent of highway user fees “are going to transit [programs], not to highways,” and that something needs to be done in order to restore the West Virginia Highway Trust Fund.

Selling parts of national parks, especially iconic parks in West Virginia like Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which Mooney reportedly proposed as a park that might be effected by new highway programs, had many people asking questions, and rightfully so. Harpers Ferry National Park definitely holds its own in regard to the Wild and Wonderful slogan.

2010-09-02-Harpers-Ferry-From-Maryland-Heights-Panorama-Crop

The National Parks Conservation Association says that “we believe that America’s national parks and historical sites embody the American spirit. They are windows to our past, homes to some of our rarest plants and animal species, and places where every American can go to find inspiration, peace, and open space.” With so much wildlife in an area that is designed to be preserved for its natural beauty, it is scary to think about any program that would infringe on these conserved and protected areas.

Mooney received plenty of backlash from his highway proposition and was quick to mention that he was misquoted and what he said about restoring the West Virginia Highway Trust Fund was taken out of context. Moody explained to The Journal’s editorial board “that [Harpers Ferry National Park proposition] was a misquote…I keep getting asked that, and I didn’t say that.”

What Mooney supposedly intended with his highway proposition was that he wanted to sell land controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management to fund the Highway Trust Fund. This was a big contradiction compared to the statement he was quoted on pertaining to selling parts of national parks to fund the Highway Trust Fund, considering the BLM does not manage national parks. National parks are operated and run by the National Park Service.

What Mooney’s intentions were with his idea to restore the Highway Trust Fund in West Virginia were still unclear, but Congress ended up passing an $11 billion “stop-gap measure” that rapidly revamped the Highway Trust Fund, which was close to running out. This however, came at the expense of public transportation, which left many still scratching their heads.

Like what was mentioned earlier, Mooney was reported to have said that 17 percent of the Highway Trust Fund goes to non-highway programs, specifically public transit programs, so there is some discrepancy in what he is saying regarding how much federal money is really being put towards public transportation from the Highway Trust Fund. It appears that what his plan is actually doing is reducing that percentage even further, and he doesn’t see a need for federal funding at all.

The Journal explains in their article that he would not be using the money from the trust fund to help public transit programs, and commuter trains that serve West Virginia counties like Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan would be devastated by this. Many public transit programs in the state would have a very hard time funding themselves without federal money. So when Mooney is quoted saying “as much as is possible, public transit programs should pay for themselves,” and at another point in time quoted saying that 17% of the money from The Highway Trust Fund would go towards transit programs , the discrepancies are obvious.

For someone who has recently passed the 100-day milestone representing the state of West Virginia in Congress, they sure do appear to be having a difficult time getting their facts straight regarding informing the public as to what their plans for the state really are.

 

 

 

 

Turkeys, Turkeys everywhere!

By: Carley Posey

In the past ten years there have been a couple times that West Virginia didn’t have a spring turkey hunting season, but in the last couple of years with hunters taking less turkeys in the season that usual should we be worried about overpopulation of turkeys in the same way white tail deer are in the mountain state? Spring turkey season in West Virginia is set to kick off this weekend on Saturday April 25th, 2015 with a youth hunt available to all children ages 8-18. The official start of the season begins on April 27th, 2015.

turkey2 My grandfather and I, circa 1994

Turkey hunting season of 2013 yielded the highest kill rate in a few years at 10,974 birds. Hunters say the success of that hunting season was due to the favorable weather, a low kill rate in the 2012 season, and a good 2011 poult production. 52 out of the 55 counties in West Virginia reported their highest amount of kills since 2006 this year.

Turkey hunting is a season where you have multiple fall season broken up around different parts of the state with some counties having multiple weeks.The spring season is state wide for all counties. During fall season your bag limit is one bird of either sex, but during the spring season you are allowed one bird daily with a two bird season limit, but they may only be bearded birds. During spring female turkeys are having their little ones, and are otherwise protected.

turkeys

Baby turkeys and their moms on a Lewis County roadway.

However, many hunters say the state opens up season too late for them to be successful, because the turkey are already out and about as early as March. While the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) says that the spring season is set to ensure the future of the turkey population. The DNR says that other states around us that start their season early arte really hurting their turkey population because it doesn’t give the female turkeys enough time to bed down with babies.

2013 has been the largest harvest of turkeys in the last several years, so will there be overpopulation of turkeys before we know it? There seems to be far less turkeys than white tailed deer that we are over run with. Only time and hunting season turn out will be able to tell if we will be overrun with turkeys in the future.

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