Boom In Marcellus Gas Drilling Prompting Calls For Tighter Controls

Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County resident Beth Little is passionate about protecting water resources in the county and throughout West Virginia. She sees drilling in the Marcellus shale as a possible threat to that resource. Little is a member of the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club and the WV Highlands Conservancy. She’s also a driving force behind the Pocahontas County Water Resources Task Force.

At a recent public hearing before the WV legislature, she urged lawmakers to more closely control natural gas drilling, even as more wells are sunk into the states’ Marcellus Shale. She’s especially concerned about gas leases in large tracts of the Monongahela National Forest, including part of the proposed Seneca Creek Wilderness Area, in Randolph and Pendleton counties. Marcellus drilling can release large amounts of salt water, part of the hydrological fracturing or fracking process used to release the gas from the layers of shale. She says one of these wells has already had a terrible impact in the Mon’s Fernow Experimental Forest.

Little: “In a forested area it killed all the vegetation, including several large trees. And the scientists there were very unhappy that permission was given for the drilling.”

The Forest Service argues it must balance protection with economics. And they own the mineral rights on only about two thirds of the Mon. Gas industry defenders say natural gas has less impact that other energy sources, such as coal. But even some experts have admitted disposal of the fracking fluids can be difficult.

Little says one bill that has passed in the House of Delegates would monitor the brine that comes with Marcellus Drilling.

“It will track how the waste is disposed of, where and who does it, and disclosure of the chemicals that they use so people know, especially if there are any spills or accidents.”

However, the bill could face tough opposition in the Senate.

A separate proposal currently in the House, could reclassify deep Marcellus wells as shallow wells, making drilling easier. Dave McMahon, co-founder of the WV Surface Owners Rights Organization, also attended the public hearing. He says the proposed change to shallow well designation could cause a problem for those who live next to someone with a well. McMahon says currently, neighbors of deep wells can petition for a share of the proceeds. But if the wells are reclassified as shallow, neighbors could lose the right to petition, possibly as much as 1000.00 dollars a day.

“It would be legalized stealing of your gas is this bill passes. They can put a well right next to your boundary, drain the gas out from underneath you, and there is nothing you can do about it” says McMahon.

Thanks to the WV News Service for the information in this report.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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