Pollution: Energy companies must be held accountable

Many West Virginians believe we can have the best of both worlds. That is, we can enjoy the financial benefits of the natural gas drilling boom while maintaining the natural splendor that is one of our state’s trademarks.

It is imperative that we insist the energy industry play by the rules put in place to ensure that remains possible.

This week, it was revealed Antero Resources, the Colorado firm among the leaders in gas drilling here, has agreed to pay $3.15 million to resolve pollution violations at 32 sites in Tyler, Doddridge and Harrison counties. The settlement was worked out among the company, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state Department of Environmental Protection. It involves allegations Antero violated the Clean Water Act.

Specifically, Antero was accused of unauthorized disposal of materials into streams near well sites. Part of the settlement includes the firm’s agreement to mitigate damage.

More than $3 million is a stiff price to pay for errors in judgment that damaged the environment. It works out to nearly $100,000 for each of the 32 affected sites.

Good for state and federal officials for pursuing the matter. They must remain vigilant. Energy companies need to be reminded — where it counts, in their bank accounts — that West Virginians will not stand for a repeat of abuses inflicted by the coal, oil, gas and timbering industries.