Hillsboro Business Owner Makes Impassioned Plea Against Marcellus Drilling At County Commission Meeting
Marlinton, WV – Pretty Penny owner Blair Campbell wants the Pocahontas County Commissioners to just say no to any Marcellus drilling in the county. She made her case Tuesday night at the second February meeting of the Commission. She bases her opposition on both business and personal reasons.
“The people that come to my restaurant are three different parts of people; there’s local people who live in the county, work in the county,” she says. “The other two thirds of my business are split equally between second home owners and tourists and they come here to escape their concrete jungle.”
She says they come expecting to find fresh air, clean water and lots of outdoor activities; all things she believes would be threatened by industrial activity such as gas shale drilling. She’s also concerned about the impact of such activities on her young children and what it could mean for their future.
Nathaniel Sizemore agrees with Campbell. Like her he says he was born and raised in Pocahontas, graduated from high school and left, never intending to return. But also like her, he was drawn back to the beauty of the county and the opportunity to raise his children in the area he grew up. He says being back now as a small business owner, he realizes how important it is to protect the existing resources.
While many in attendance agreed with those sentiments, others like Charlie Sheets of Green Bank wondered why this topic has come up once again.
“I’m really at a loss as to why we’re here tonight,” he says. “I thought we had this settled here a few weeks ago; [Commissioner] Mr. Saffer said Pocahontas County is not on the drilling list. As far as I know Pocahontas County is not a moratorium county for Marcellus drilling. Now if you want that to happen, you have to go to the legislature and not in the County Commission. I think the County Commissioners here would agree that they are not a regulator force; it’s the West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection.”
Blair Campbell says she did go to the legislature last year when they were discussing amending legislation governing drilling practices, but says many of the environmental concerns were not addressed in the final version of the bill. Commission President David Fleming says it was added to the agenda for their meeting at Campbell’s request, saying it’s the responsibility of the Commission to listen to the concerns of county citizens.
Casey Wallace, owner of Judy Fencecraft in Bartow, says it comes back to private property rights. He says he’s not preaching the benefits of big industry, but at the same time, the county shouldn’t reject it out of hand. Commissioner Jamie Walker has cited the same arguments in his opposition to any kind of county drilling moratorium or ban. He says out of the dozens of kids that ride his school bus only a handful expect to stay in the county after graduation. Walker says the county simply cannot continue to say no to any industry that wishes to locate here. Fleming says they are planning to hold other meetings on the Marcellus issue, hopefully with opposing viewpoints at the same meeting.