Late last week, we reported on efforts by several state environmental groups and a former state parks director to intervene in the ongoing litigation over efforts to open dozens of new oil and gas drilling wells in Chief Logan State Park.
That case had previously been headed for the state Supreme Court, where the state Department of Environmental Protection had promised to appeal a ruling that overturned its denial of Cabot Oil and Gas permit applications.
But still conspicuously absent from the legal fray is the state Division of Natural Resources, the agency charged with overseeing — and protecting — West Virginia’s state parks, and the agency specifically prohibited by state law from allowing “the exploitation of minerals or the harvesting of timber for commercial purposes in any state park.”
Cabot applied to DEP’s oil and gas office for the drilling permits, and then-DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer denied the application, citing the DNR law prohibiting drilling. But DNR never intervened in the case.
Now, along with their own effort to intervene, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Friends of Blackwater and former parks chief Cordie Hudkins are asking DNR to get involved. In this letter, sent Friday to DNR Director Frank Jezioro, environmental group lawyer Todd asked the agency to intervene in the case. Rodd argued that if the previous ruling, by Logan Circuit Judge Roger Perry, is allowed to stand, it would be a disaster for the parks system:
If this unprecedented, radical, extremist view gains legal sway, the result will be the wholesale degradation of one of the jewels of our Mountain State — our magnificent State Park system. Thousands of users of West Virginia State Parks are deeply concerned that the failure to have the issue of the exploration for and commercial extraction of privately owned minerals that are located under state-owned State Park land addressed based on a full record, with the full participation of your agency — the agency that manages and advocates for those parks — places the magnificent and unspoiled beauty of West Virginia’s state parks system in jeopardy.
I tried to check in with Jezioro for a reaction to this letter, and I was told he is out of the office until next week.