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



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!


Stay the Frack Out of Our Water

A few weeks ago, fracking waste chemicals were allegedly found near drinking water inputs in West Virginia. Duke University tested the headwaters of Wolf Creek and Lochgelly, and discovered toxic chemicals and radiation in fracking wastewater. It was confirmed that Wolf Creek was contaminated with toxic hydraulic fracking compounds. Furthermore, laboratory test showed that radiation in the water the Lochgelly frack site was over 3,000 picoCurries per liter. Whereas, the safety threshold is 60 picoCurries per liter maximum.

According to the National Cancer Institute, Fayette County now has the highest rate of Leukemia in West Virginia. In Fayette County, there has also been a significant increase in the cancer rate in recent years. Fayette county now has the highest rate per capita of head, neck, lung and colon cancer in West Virginia.


Tuesday, during a public hearing hosted by The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Fayette County residents voice their opinions about the underground injection site on the West Virginia DEP permit renewal for the Danny Webb Construction Company’s site in Lochgelly at Oak Hill High School.

The majority of the speakers opposed Webb’s proposed underground injection control permits, which involves dumped oil and gas waste from sites in Pennsylvania, Virginia and other parts of West Virginia.

“Friends of Water, Plateau Action Network, the National Park Service and even the Fayette County Commission asked the DEP to deny this permit,” reported WV Public Broadcasting.

During the hear, DEP was accused of failing to represent the people.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Quality Board ruled that the state agency tasked with the protecting the environment in West Virginia, violated state law when it allowed Danny Webb Construction to collect waste without a permit.

DEP is considering a permit, which would allow the company to continue accepting fluids from oil and gas exploration, development drilling and production for another five years. The DEP is accepting comments through May 1.

Click here to see a condensed version of an open letter to the Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health from the Kanawha representative for the WV Mountain Party

Sierra Club Knows How to Have Environmental Fun

11018617_877569032266386_7377010931877608000_oThe Sierra Swing

Hosted by the Sierra Student Coalition , environmental fun took place at Morgantown Brew Pub this past Friday, April 10. The Sierra Swing featured live music by The Manor and Friends and a raffle with excellent prizes from local businesses. The best part of the event was supporting an awesome environmental group!

The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a group of high school and college-aged students working to protect the environment. Their mission is

“to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”

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The Monongahela (“Mon”) Group of the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club includes members from 5 counties – Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston and Taylor.  Their goal is

“to increase awareness of environmental threats and create opportunities for active involvement of all sorts.”

This is executed by an event, a group function, holding volunteer office, leading or joining outings, becoming an activist and lobbying or demonstrating for change.

sierra-club-logo3Sierra Club

The SSC and Mon Group are sub groups of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club loves clean water, fresh air and wild forests. Members of this group work hard to protect the natural resources that they cherish. Some of their issues in West Virginia include:

Waterwater is life – keep it clean
Marcellus Gas Drilling and FrackingMarcellus Academy teaches about Marcellus gas issues, how to become a gas well watcher and organizer in your community.
Energy Efficiency – demonstrates the cheapest and cleanest way to meet our energy needs
Mountaintop Removal and Coal Mining: under the Club’s Environmental Justice Program, organizers work in the coalfield communities of Appalachia. These communities in southern West Virginia are at risk of flooding, local water contamination, destruction from over-weight coal trucks, decreased personal property value from coal dust and living in the shadows of huge coal-sludge impoundments. Researchers have also documented its impact to the health of coalfield residents.
West Virginia Wilderness Coalition: incorporated by the West Virginia Sierra Club, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and The Wilderness Society, the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition is a proud partner in the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument initiative.
“the movement to preserve one of the Mountain State’s most special wild landscapes, a rich history and an unparalleled cultural heritage.”

Sierra Club’s Statement of Purpose:

“To explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the Earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the Earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.”

Enter into Sierra Club’s


Good luck and check out the prizes!

Donate to Sierra Club here                     Like Sierra Club on Facebook.

Frack is wack

Sierra Halstenberg

Price Gregory International (PGI)

Fracking is real. It’s dangerous. And, it’s currently causing fouled water wells, air pollution and leaks of climate-warming methane into the atmosphere. America needs energy. That’s understanding. But, where do the boundaries lie?

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is sneaking its way through the George Washington National Forest transporting fracked natural gas from West Virginia.  The pipeline project would affect approximately 295.6 miles of a 42-inch-diameter pipeline in Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph, and Pocahontas Counties in West Virginia. West Virginia and Virginia residents are concerned what environmental impacts the pipeline will have.

What the frack is fracking? BCMJ_55Vol5_bccdc_figure Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” is the extraction process that pumps water, sand and chemicals into the ground at extremely high pressures to puncture the buried rock that harbors the gas. In many areas in America, West Virginia included, fracking represents as a threat to water, land, air and outdoor recreational activities.

Facts about Atlantic Coast Pipeline acp-exhibit-a-project-overview-map

1) The pipeline involves construction of a 550-mile long natural gas pipeline to carry natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, costing $2,000,000,000.

2) Forty to fifty miles of the pipeline will run through national forests.

3) Thirteen miles of the pipeline is expected to go through the George Washington National Forest, which protects an important stretch of the Appalachian Trail as well as the James and Potomac Rivers, and provides drinking water for more than five million people.

4) In order to build and maintain the pipeline, a 200-foot cleared construction right-of-way, a 75-foot cleared permanent right-of-way and access roads would be constructed in the GWNF.

Community Concerns

Lisa Bragg voices her concerns and introduces an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

• The pipeline impacts need to be evaluated and studied for all phases of the project, from construction through completion. FERC should evaluate, explain and have thourough contengencey plans for environmental impacts before construction, including and most importantly safety for citizens and the environment. These should include but are not limited to the following: the potential use of fly ash for backfill, and cumulative impacts following the completion of the pipeline, such as any and all types fracking and impact of fracking to land and water.

• FERC should stop out of state private corporations from threatening land owners with eminent domain when these corporations have no plans to benefit the citizens of WV. These citizens also are currently being served by existing pipelines and are not intrested in doing forced business with these types of rogue corporations. Putting profits before people is unconstitutional and should be avoided at all costs.

• The Monongahela National Forest is sensitive ecosystem, and FERC should avoid impacting this area. Constructing a pipeline will increase forest fragmentation, so FERC avoid destruction of our protected forest and intstead study the impact such a pipeline would have on local wildlife.

• Geology and soils: West Virginia contains many unique geologic features including an extensive underground cave system that is an important part of WV tourism. FERC should also study the impacts of increased sedimentation from fracking runoff and loss of topsoil during any type of construction but never allow a pipeline to occur.

• Land use: WV is known for its outdoor recreational opportunities. FERC should realize how the pipeline would greatly impact and decimate outdoor recreation and tourism but not allow a pipeline to ever alter this precious

c3bd6d93b76c0e00480f6a7067001a24Water resources, fisheries and wetland: The pipeline will have to cross numerous streams, rivers, and wetlands. FERC should study how many crossings will occur, the acres of wetlands to be disturbed and how the pipeline will impact springs and drinking water sources. Impacts to freshwater streams will also affect fisheries resources, which is an important part of the state’s ecology and tourism. With impacts to the hydrology there could be cumulative effects such as flooding, so FERC should study how the construction impacts from disturbing streams and wetlands will impact flood events. FERC should get outside studies done on how Fracking would impact our water resources, fisheries and wetlands. By getting several outside studies done this will prove how dangerous fracking is to our citizens and environment.

• West Virginia contains many cultural resources, such as Native American and civil war artifacts; How the will the pipeline’s construction will impact these cultural resources?

• Vegetation and wildlife: Appalachian mountains contain very diverse vegetation that provide a lot of economic benefits such as ginseng and several tree species such as red spruce that are already in decline. FERC should study how the pipeline will impact these and other important vegetation species. West Virginia has diverse wildlife populations from large mammals to small salamanders that play an important role in the ecosystem. FERC should study how the construction will impact West Virginia’s wildlife species including breeding and nesting grounds, migration routes, and increased predation from the proposed pipeline corridor. How will fracking impact all of this?

• Air Quality and Noise: Compression stations and construction will diminish air quality and have increased noise levels. The proximity of the compressor station and pipeline to communities and nearby residences and how to mitigate adverse effects should be fully studied.

• Endangered and Threatened Species: West Virginia contains many threatened and endangered species; evaluate how the pipeline will impact all the threatened and endangered species through disturbance, habitat loss, breeding, etc and how the negative impact will be mitigated or avoided.

• Public Safety: Because of the flammability of natural gas, the pipeline is at risk of an explosion. FERC should consider the blast radius should an explosion occur and how many residences are within the blast radius. Further, they should study mitigation efforts to avoid densely populated areas. Study the health risks associated with living near a compressor station or a leaking natural gas pipeline. Study fracking earthquakes will they have an impact on WV’s infrastructure, interstates, dam’s and citizen’s homes, bridges and historic buildings? __________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fracking has been going on for decades, increasing jobs and new wealth in states. But, aren’t the downsides serious enough to be deal-breakers?


Wild and Lucrative Part 2

In the recent Wild and Lucrative blog post, Karly covered the new proposed timber project, which threatens Cooper Rock State Forest and its negative impact on the popular recreation site, forestry research, timber management, and wildlife and watershed protection.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time logging projects have negatively impacted West Virginia’s forests. Timber operations has been a serious problem in West Virginia.

Over the years, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (WVHC) , a non-profit corporation, has received multiple complaints about witnessing unsightly and environmentally logging by companies in West Virginia.

Why are forests important?

Emily Gallegher posted a blog the WVHC website, The Mountain State is a forest state, too. In her posts, she covers the importance of forests, and it impact on West Virginia recreation.

West Virginia has the third highest percentage of forestry in the United State. Twelve million acres are forested. Roughly, 5,998 million trees cover The Mountain State.

Randy Dye, director and state forester with the West Virginia Division of Forestry, said “each forest in the state helps provide for residents in the state, whether it be with jobs, resources, recreation or a nice view.”

“Forests provide the highest quality of water,” he said. “And they’re the scenic beauty of the state.”

Background of forestry in West Virginia

In 2001, The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy published The Timber Reform Research Project as means to seek answers to our states logging problems. As you’ll see below, the non-profit corporation began its report by providing our state’s forestry background.
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The Big Problem

WVHC detected that “a big problem currently exists with unlicensed logger operations and offenders.” The Timber Bill Research Project noted that one quarter of all logging operations are not meeting standards set by the state. Also, Division of Forestry records tracking enforcement of the Logging Sediment Control Act have not been uniform from field office to field office. Therefore, it can’t be determined what is being logged, who is doing the logging, and what companies are or are not following best management practices. Further, when a logger gets suspended in one district, he/she can still be actively logging in another.

What needs to be done?

A timber bill is urgently needed. WVHC stated that we need to work on a legislation that:

  1. The Logging Sediment Control Act enforcement needs to be improved and enable more power to suspend logging company licenses and logger licenses. Increased fines need to be put in current regulations.
  2. The Division’s database needs to be updated and include links to all district offices.
  3. Logging operation needs to be inspected at least twice to decrease the high violation rate.
  4. Increase the Division of Forestry’s funding and staffing.


-Sierra Halstenberg