Editor’s Note: Through May 4, The Register-Herald will publish a daily story featuring in-depth interviews we conducted with candidates seeking the office of Governor of West Virginia. Each of the 16 people who filed were issued an invitation to appear before our editorial board, and 14 of those came to Beckley to meet with us and discuss some of the key issues in West Virginia. The stories will appear in the order in which the candidates were interviewed. Today’s story focuses on Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson, of Pinch.
1 — It certainly appears that Marcellus shale regulation will remain a major topic of interest for the next several years. What are the key features that you see need to be included in West Virginia law in order to best serve the interests of all the parties involved?
Well, time and timing. We’re the fourth largest, or fourth richest resource state in the union, but whenever that was coined, statistically, it was talking about natural resources that were non-renewable. It saddens myself, and it should sadden every West Virginian that we could be the fourth richest in the nation and still have the poverty we have and the low quality of life on so many levels on indexes that measured.
The Marcellus is certainly an opportunity, but once again, it is one of those non-renewable resources. Those non-renewable resources belong to every West Virginian, frankly. They should be compensated for it. Whether it’s because these extractive industries use our roadways, our railways, our waterways in order to market, we the people always pay for it.
It’s this constant, problematic template that is so pervasive today — privatizing profit and socializing debt for industry. Anytime there are these externalized cost factors, we the people end up paying for it. With regards to Marcellus, it’s like the coal. We should set the agenda. The people of West Virginia and our representatives should be protecting the public interest and safety and health but also setting the agenda for business. If we don’t act so quickly, we’ll make more solid decisions. I believe that there needs to be a moratorium, even though I jokingly say there is a moratorium with regards to Marcellus shale right now. The moratorium is on inspectors.
Right now, we have about 14 inspectors to inspect somewhere in the neighborhood of about 78,000 holes in the ground. Now, we’re talking... That’s absolutely impossible.
I believe there should be a moratorium on any new wells drilled until we have comprehensive health impact studies with regards to health impacts and hydrofracking. When you consider that three to seven million gallons of water are extracted from the state via Cheney’s energy meeting that took place behind closed doors that basically allows these industries, Haliburton, etc., to extract from a waterway any amount of water they want to. It’s unlimited and clear violations of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. Sucking all of our resources — and water is our most valuable resource other than our people — and all aquatic life from a stream to pump into a well.
We’re talking about vast quantities of water, and less than 2 percent of water on planet Earth is even potentially potable drinking water. Whether we’re aborting water, life itself with mountaintop removal, shipping our coal to China, or whether we’re endangering water aquifers when one-third of West Virginians are still on well water with the hydrofracking and the hazardous materials that are involved including radioactive (materials)...
Then on the far end, we’re privatizing our public works all across the state, and in each case it’s the taxpayer and the public that’s paying the price. So, I’m in favor of a moratorium until there has been really solid study on the effects of this. That’s something that isn’t a missed opportunity. It’s actually a growing opportunity because that is a wise choice for West Virginia, one that we can take without being rushed into it.
The longer they can stay in the ground, those non-renewable resources, the more valuable they become. So, I’m in favor of that kind of moratorium instead of the kind of moratorium we have now, which is on hiring inspectors to even be able to cover the job.
As it stands now, it’s the Wild West. It’s rustlers’ paradise gas rustling, so to speak, and water rustling.