Most West Virginians have welcomed the natural gas drilling boom. It has brought unexpected windfalls to thousands of mineral rights owners, jobs to some people and stimulation of an economy badly in need of it.
But there are limits. One of them was emphasized last week when one of the biggest of the gas industry players agreed to pay nearly $10 million for environmental damage in eight West Virginia counties, including Marshall and Wetzel.
A Chesapeake Energy subsidiary agreed to the arrangement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It calls for payment of a $3.2 million fine and $6.7 million in restoration work on streams damaged by drilling and other gas industry operations.
As we reported Friday, several of the sites are in local counties, including some places where we previously had informed readers of damage to streams.
Violations of the Clean Water Act involved in the settlement date back at least five years. No doubt some residents of the affected areas wondered if the stream damage was being ignored.
It was not. Both state and federal governments took action against Chesapeake.
Some West Virginians still remember a time when the energy industry was allowed to ravage our hills, valleys and streams with impunity. When the gas drilling boom began, many vowed not to allow that to happen again.
The action announced last week should be taken by energy companies that West Virginians meant that.