OVEC Statement on Drilling Under Ohio River

Re: WV Allowing Fracking Under the Ohio River

Contact: Robin Blakeman, 304-(304) 840-4877 or robin@ohvec.org

Statement from Robin Blakeman, project coordinator with the Huntington, W.Va.-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC):

Since late summer of 2014, OVEC has been monitoring developments related to the sale of mineral rights under the Ohio River. It seems now that several corporations — most recently Statoil — are now announcing purchase of these mineral rights and intention to drill under the Ohio River.

The Ohio River is already considered the most polluted inland waterway in our country; gas drilling near or under the river could make it much worse. Where will the five million people who depend on the Ohio River for tap water get a second source of water?

In addition to all of the concerns we raised in a letter to Governor Tomblin dated September 17, 2014 (see below), we have additional concerns related to the associated processes of gas fracking near or under the river.

One concern is waste disposal. With drill pads very close to the river, where will the tons of waste product go? Currently, West Virginia allows some dumping of these products in certain landfills, and there are many injection wells being constructed in Ohio. None of these seem sufficient, however, for the amount of waste —  both solid and liquid —  generated by these unconventional drilling operations. The waste contents from these wells are far from benign; radioactivity and cancer causing agents are among the multiple toxic possibilities.

Another concern is truck, train, or barge transportation of gas drilling supplies and waste products near the river. The potential for multiple, polluting spills is very high. This could compound already existing pollution problems within the Ohio River, such as mercury levels.

Some studies have shown significant increases in levels of mercury from run-off from unconventional drilling operations.

Another source of concern is the potential for large quantities of water to be withdrawn from the Ohio River for the fracking processes.


Letter sent to Governor Tomblin last fall:

September 17, 2014
The Honorable Earl Ray Tomblin
Governor of West Virginia
State Capitol Complex
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305

Dear Governor Tomblin,

As you are aware the West Virginia Department of Commerce, Division of Natural Resources will be opening bids for mineral rights resource leasing under the Ohio River on September 26, 2014.  This letter is to inform you that we oppose any leasing of land in Wetzel, Marshall and Pleasant Counties for such potential exploration, drilling and hydro fracturing.

Without question, any decision you make regarding the leasing of this land will have a profound impact on the Ohio River for generations to come.

The well-documented deficient enforcement capability of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas has been on public display for years, even within state-owned and controlled lands, such as the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area. How are we ever to believe that the state has the political will, technical capability and community commitment  to guarantee that adequate controls, timely supervision and, when needed, ruthless enforcement  would occur on well pads that close to the Ohio River?

You cannot allow the quality of our water supply to be compromised because no amount of economic benefit could justify the degradation of our land and water. You bear the burden to ensure the responsible stewardship of one of our most precious natural resources — water. We have significant concerns that regulations will not adequately safeguard our regional water supply. Will sufficient financial assurances be put in place to guarantee that funding will be available to replace all drinking water supplies along the Ohio River should a release occur? We believe the question is not “if” but “when” regarding earthquakes and potential spills and leaks of hydro fracking fluids and processed waste water whenever corporations are allowed to proceed with drilling under the river.

One has only to look at the prior experience in Ohio with earthquakes to know that you should never drill or hydro fracture close to a fault line. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources determined that there was a link between the hydraulic fracturing operations at a well in Poland, Ohio, and a 3.0 magnitude earthquake in March of this year. We hope that you are aware that there is a fault line known as the Ohio River Fault that runs under the Ohio River and is in close proximity to the Ohio side of the river.  Please see the following link to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources geosurvey map which shows the existence of this fault line: http://www2.ohiodnr.com/portals/geosurvey/ohioseis/images/faultbig.gif.

Where one state decides to drill should never put residents of their own state or another state in harm’s way.

In the end, if you want the residents to have any confidence that you have taken into consideration all possible negative impacts that drilling and hydro fracturing can have on our water supply, you must be completely transparent, including the commissioning of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement and providing sufficient public comment opportunities prior to awarding any leasing of land.

In closing, the decision whether to allow hydro fracturing under the Ohio River is a decision that will affect many generations to come. The exploitation of limited natural gas resources under the river could degrade our water quality, reduce the recreational and aesthetic value of the river, and cause health problems for millions of people. Therefore, we believe you have a duty to current and future generations to withdraw the proposed land for leasing. We also are requesting a meeting between you and representatives from our undersigned groups prior to the deadline for submission of bids for the Ohio River mineral rights in question.

You may contact Robin Blakeman, at robin@ohvec.org or 304-522-0246, who will be certain to share your reply with all the below-signed organizational representatives.


Respectfully yours,



Robin Blakeman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (Huntington, WV)




Roxanna Groff, Athens County (OH) Fracking Action Network
Teresa Mills, Center for Health, Environment and Justice and Buckeye Forest Council, consultant
Mary Greer, Concerned Citizens Ohio
Pat Jacobson, FaCT-OV
Leatra Harper, FreshWater Accountability Project
Joanna Gerson, Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum
Bill Hughes, Wetzel County Action Group
Chuck Wyrostok, WV Chapter of Sierra Club



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