Petition update

Open Letter to Gov. Tomblin on Ohio River Drilling

Robin Mahonen
St. Augustine, FL, United States

Dec 12, 2014 — OPEN LETTER to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
This letter and the petition was sent as Robin Mahonen was leaving West Virginia.
This letter was released to newspapers statewide yesterday.

We are STILL collecting signatures and comments, which will be presented again during the anniversary of the chemical spill in WV last winter, January 9, 2015. We call on you to help us increase our numbers.
Thank you for your support for clean water.
May you never thirst.


Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
Office of the Governor
State Capitol
1900 Kanawha Blvd. E.
Charleston WV 25305

November 25, 2014

Dear Governor Tomblin:

My name is Robin Mahonen, and I am a social worker, musician and activist, and founder of a grassroots group in Wheeling, WV called the “Wheeling Water Warriors”. I am here today to present you with this petition, signed by 3820, to urge you to reconsider your plans to permit hydraulic fracturing under the Ohio River. This idea is economically short sighted, environmentally unsound, and shows a disregard for the health and well being of the citizens of this state as well as the adjacent states who also drink water from this river.

I brought my family of four young children to West Virginia 23 years ago, in 1991, to enjoy the wild wonderful beauty of this state and to watch them grow up and thrive in a rural setting. I was born in Los Angeles, and raised in NYC, so I understand both the concept and the reality of living with pollution very well. When I met people here for the first time, and told them I had moved to WV from NYC, the most common answer was “Why?” In surprise, I'd answer, “For the natural beauty, the low cost of living, the friendly people, the low crime rate, need I go on?” I was surprised to find so many native West Virginians had such a negative view of the place they were born and raised. I CHOSE to come here and make this state my home, and for many years, I loved it here. I brought both my parents here to live and care for them in the country in their golden years. I expected to live out my days cradled in the arms of the mountains of West Virginia. As a social worker, for many of those years, I had a private mental health practice, was active in my church and other cultural and community activities. I came to know and love many wonderful people who call themselves Mountaineers.

I want to tell you why my husband and I are now leaving this fair state.

I have always been alarmed by mountaintop coal removal, but since the fracking industry has moved in, the entire area has changed. I have seen water levels in our small streams and ponds disappear as the frackers remove our water at will to serve their operations. The air around active frack pads is hazardous to health, and the methane gas released throughout the fracking process is a major contributor of global climate change. Our water has been contaminated by spills. The noise generated at these pads approaches that of a jet engine when the wells are being flared. Workers have died in fiery explosions. The huge trucks run people off our small rural roads. Some of the out of town workers, with no ties to the community, litter our roadsides and take the jobs that were promised to locals, some of them living in RV “man camps”, and others driving the costs of housing beyond what our locals can afford. A promising young college student was killed in our hometown in an unfortunate altercation with some of these same workers.

Personally, I was offered $45,000 by a company for oil and gas rights to my 16 acre property in Triadelphia, WV, and turned it down. For me, it would have been tantamount to selling my soul. I am horrified to think that anyone would consider fracking under the river, the lifeblood of so many, to be a sound idea.

When I first visited WV, I came as a tourist enjoying whitewater rafting, and was awed by the natural beauty I saw here. How many tourists will want to come to WV now, when we can't guarantee they will find clean water to drink? Who wants to view naked mountaintops, frack pads, and cracker plants? This natural beauty needs to be preserved for future generations, not used as a cash cow. As someone raised in the city, who came here for the natural beauty, I am appalled by the callous disregard for this beautiful land, by people who were born and raised here, including you, Governor Tomblin. We all are stewards of this earth, and we all should be ashamed.

Every single one of my four children decided to leave West Virginia, even though they grew up here. My daughter was a two time record breaking West Virginia State Track Champion, yet left as soon as she graduated. I have no grandchildren yet, but I would not want my children to bring their children to grandma's house if they had to be exposed to the chemicals and radiation being released into our community. We have friends in the MCHM affected areas who still do not drink their tap water. I have a friend who lives in a house in the shade of a frack pad, and her little girl, age 8, got leukemia. Another friend is surrounded by four fracking pads, and their child was born with developmental disabilities. One child sickened or damaged for fracking is too many. It is our responsibility as adults to insure that our children are growing up in clean, safe environments. West Virginia can now guarantee neither.

As an activist, I know that there are some who will no doubt be happy to see me leave, you perhaps included. But please recognize that there is an ongoing population drain in this state, and I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to make this sad decision for our families own health and well being. I have literally been brought to tears as I bear witness to the various communities devastated by fossil fuel and fracking operations. I will continue to advocate for WV from my new home. Further, my husband and I are keeping our house in WV, with the hopes that things may change. You, Governor Tomblin, are in a unique position to help change this.

What would we like you to do?
Start by protecting our Ohio River. Do not allow drilling under the river, as the potential risks greatly outweigh any short term economic benefit. This river is the drinking water and source of life to well over 3 million Americans, ten times the number of residents impacted by the disastrous MCHM spill into the Elk River just this past winter. We have no right to endanger the water of people downriver.
Support, fund and enforce SB373 to protect our water from further contamination. This bill was passed unanimously last year following the MCHM water crisis, largely due to citizen pressure, and is under attack by the industry. This legislation is a start, and is designed to protect West Virginians and their water.
Invest in solar and other renewable clean energy sources which protect our public health and environment, while generating long term jobs for our locals. This is not just a regional issue, as the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels cause global climate change, impacting everyone on this planet.
Most importantly, recognize that fossil fuel extraction is not a boon to West Virginia, and the long term costs of this extreme industry are not worth the risks to the people of this state. Fossil fuels are, and will inevitably continue to become more and more difficult to extract, and therefore, more expensive. Solar energy has, and will continue to increase in efficiency and decrease in costs. We need to create good jobs in this state, and solar jobs are growing ten times faster than national average employment growth.

Follow the leads of progressive communities who have recognized that fossil fuel extraction is not only a death producing, but also, a dying industry. Solar and other technologies are the future, and fossil fuel extraction needs to become known as a historical technology whose day has come and gone, like the dinosaurs they came from, when we didn't know any better. As educated and intelligent people, we now know better. Put West Virginia on the cutting edge, rather than bringing up the rear. Take a stand, make a statement, and develop policies which reflect this reality.

Robin Mahonen,
Wheeling Water Warriors

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