Concerned Pocahontas Residents Visit State Representatives To Talk About Marcellus Drilling
Charleston, WV – A small group of citizens from northern Pocahontas County recently paid a visit to state legislators in Charleston to talk about Marcellus drilling and the possible impacts on West Virginia. Drilling in the Marcellus shale deposit which covers a large part of the state is a hot topic right now with the West Virginia Legislature considering new rules and regulations to protect the state’s water and land resources.
One of those who went to the capital is Carla Beaudet, an engineer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. The group met with Senators Walt Helmick and Clark Barnes, and House of Delegates members Denise Campbell and Bill Hartman. Beaudet says they wanted to talk about the practice of hydrofracturing or fracking used in the Marcellus shale.
“When you learn that it’s injecting millions of gallons of water into the Marcellus layer, along with fracturing fluid which consists of hundreds of chemicals; and it’s a proprietary formula, so we’re not actually allowed to know what’s in there” she says. “But about 50 of the known compounds that are in there also known human carcinogens.”
Among the changes being discussed by legislators is a provision that would require an operator to give regulators a list of chemicals mixed with water for the fracking process within 30 days of a wells completion. Landowners living within 5500 feet of a well could also request that information. Beaudet says there’s ample reason to keep a close eye on those working in the Marcellus shale.
“I don’t know how many people know that in about 2005 under the Bush administration, the entire natural gas extraction industry was exempted from the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act” she says. “This is called the Halliburton loophole. So while everybody else has to comply with these regulations that keep our air and our drinking water safe, all of a sudden the natural gas industry is exempted.”
She says there is a movement at the national level to reverse that ruling, but for the moment it still stands. Another proposed change would raise the cost of a Marcellus well permit to $10,000.00, in part to pay for more well inspectors. Beaudet says support of the bill from Pocahontas legislative representatives is mixed.
“Helmick definitely supports it and Clark Barnes is supportive of it” she says. “He actually owns a few gas wells, and he’s very knowledgeable about the industry. You can’t expect whole-hearted support on all of the fine points of it from him, but I think that in general he wants to see it regulated.”
She offers this assessment from House of Delegates representatives Denise Campbell and Bill Hartman.
“Denise Campbell, she’s a nurse; she has an autistic child [and] some of these chemicals in the fracking fluid have been linked to autism” says Beaudet. “She’s very concerned. I know she’ll vote in support of a regulatory bill; I don’t know that she’s that knowledgeable about the industry.”
“Bill Hartman was definitely on the side of industry with this one. I don’t know whether he’ll vote in support of the bill. I have a feeling he will, but I also have a feeling that he’ll do everything he can to undermine it before it goes through.”
For more information on Marcellus drilling, Beaudet suggests two sources – the movie Gasland, available on the web, or the West Virginia Sierra Club website, www.marcellus-wv.com.