As West Virginia further cultivates its energy resources, we must evaluate and minimize potential impacts to our natural environments, while benefiting from the opportunities associated with future development.
We must foster our role in helping the nation move closer to energy independence, while strengthening our economy. At the same time, we should work to become a model of environmental stewardship. This is a challenging task, but a necessary endeavor.
The Nature Conservancy recently analyzed the potential effects of energy development within Pennsylvania’s high-priority conservation areas. The report estimates, over a 20 year projection, the impacts to the Keystone State from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, commercial wind turbines, forest harvesting for biomass energy, and related infrastructure requirements.
The analysis points out that these new energy expansions carry both promise and risk. There are opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, establish quality jobs, and increase security for the state and nation. However, there are risks relating to land use changes, that if not properly managed, can impede the quality of air, water, and natural habitats as new energy developments increase.
It’s critical we ask the right questions up front and have quality data throughout this process, and the Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment offers a credible example, which West Virginia can apply to its specific circumstances.