Mon supervisor answers gas drilling questions
Marlinton, W.Va. –
Monongahela National Forest Supervisor Clyde Thompson spoke at a public meeting in Marlinton Wednesday evening about gas drilling and other issues affecting the forest. Beth Little of the West Virginia Sierra Club coordinated the talk.
Thompson said there are no active horizontal drilling proposals on the National Forest, at this time, but that one company had expressed interest.
“Now we had conversations, starting about a year-and-a-half ago, about Marcellus from a company – Bluescape – that was working on developing a couple sites on the Forest,” he said. “And they ended up – we talked about two proposals with some associated pipeline. There was field trips and discussions in the field. We never really got a written proposal. And then, about that time, fairly recently, the market has dropped, demand has fallen off and we haven’t heard any more on those issues.”
The supervisor describes conventional gas drilling and storage on forest lands.
“We’ve got, I think, 14 active wells on the Forest and I think 12 of those are in private minerals,” he said. “Two of those are in federal minerals. None of those, obviously, are Marcellus well sites. That doesn’t count about 54 wells that we have that’s over in the storage field – which is about 50,000 acres set up that the industry uses to store natural gas in.”
Thompson said 38 percent of the forest’s mineral rights are privately owned and the U.S. Forest Service has limited power to regulate access to the subsurface.
“There is questions about how much control, if any, that the surface owner has when you have this private subsurface estate,” he said. “This has been tested. I know of two court case up in the Allegheny [National Forest] that the industry was upheld; that they had the right to access this stuff. There wasn’t permit requirements or anything else.”
Brynn Kusic tells Thompson about the effects of previous bad forest management.
“The entire area had been clear-cut and that created massive problems for other places,” she said. “There were fires; there were floods; talk about states of emergency. It was bad news here when the National Forest was clear cut. The purpose of the Forest Service is to manage the Forest through these plans, where one industry does not trump all other uses of that area.”
Joe Chasnoff, of Monroe County, talks about an effort there to ban hydrofracking.
“I live in Monroe County,” he said. “I’m part of a very serious effort to ban fracking in the county and it’s going to be done through a rights-based ordinance, not a zoning ordinance. So, when I hear people say, ‘you can’t say no,’ I just want to throw up my hands and say I’m saying no and the people of Monroe County are saying no.”
Thomas Bailey, of Richwood, says there is horizontal drilling happening near the National Forest.
“It very much concerns me that they have active well sites up there, you know, they’re fracking them as we speak,” he said. “They’re not more than a fourth of a mile from the National Forest. How in the world can anyone know what they’re actually doing underneath the National Forest? How can you know if they’re even where they’re supposed to be or not, much less do anything about it?”
Supervisor Thompson also spoke about the potential for ATV use on the National Forest.
“There are folks who would like us to designate – go out and designate an ATV, you know, trail system and I understand their interest in that,” he said. “But, I don’t have the resources, with all the other issues that we got going on, to go out there and dedicate folks and pick up that potentially controversial issue. So, my thought is for folks who are interested in that to go out and develop a proposal, looking at folks who might be opposed to it; try to find some way to adjust some of those issues and, if they find something that everybody seems to be able to live with – bring it to us and then we can take a look at that.”
The crowd applauded Thompson for taking the time to answer questions.