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Oil and Gas Drillers Asked to "Walk Softly" in WV Woods

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July 26, 2007

Proposed state Division of Natural Resources rules would require oil and gas drillers to "walk softly" in West Virginia state forests and the deadline for public comments is Friday at noon. The new rules would require drillers to limit road-building, prevent erosion, protect wildlife, and give earlier notice to the state before drilling. Dave McMahon with the Kanawha State Forest Coalition says the new rules would protect the interests of people who hunt, hike, picnic, and bike in state forests.

"It will benefit the use of the forest; it will benefit the wildlife in the forest, the flora and the fauna, and show that this drilling can be done in a way that balances the interests of the surface owner better with the interests of the oil and gas driller."

He argues that current laws have left state forests vulnerable to damage from road-building and erosion related to drilling. The rules follow up on a bill passed earlier this year by state lawmakers; they called for extra protections for forests, but left the details up to the state DNR.

McMahon feels there a couple of additional rules needed to protect state forests including a requirement that when drilling areas are re-planted, it's done with plants that are native to West Virginia forests.

"We want to preserve the native species, and a lot of the non-native species are invasive. Once you put them there they kind of grow out into the forest, they keep other native species from re-claiming."

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WV