Pocahontas County Commission Takes Stand Concerning Marcellus Shale Drilling
Marlinton, WV – The Pocahontas County Commission room was filled to overflowing as Beth Little presented the Commissioners with a 265 signature petition calling for a moratorium on drilling any Marcellus Shale gas wells in the county through the end of 2014. Little says when they started the petition, a sweeping 200 page bill proposed by the West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection to better regulate Marcellus drilling was being considered by the WV legislature. However, she says politics got in the way.
“What happened at the session was that, all the leadership, Senate and House leadership, and the [Acting] Governor are all running for Governor, and it became a political item” says Little. “And is West Virginia, it’s one of the only places that the DEP, when they submit their rules, they [legislature] can amend them. In most other places the DEP submits their rules and the legislatures can pass it or not.”
Little says that by the end of the session, the bill had been reduced to about 30 pages and was almost unrecognizable. She also accuses several lawmakers with pecuniary interests in Marcellus drilling of further diluting the legislation.
Commission President David Fleming says he’s bothered by what he sees as a lack of action from the state. He says he’s concerned that no one is monitoring possibly higher radioactivity levels released during Marcellus shale drilling activities.
“I actually posted on our County Commission website a couple of reports from the New York Times where they did an investigative report in Pennsylvania primarily, but they also mention West Virginia in several cases, primarily concerning radioactivity” says Fleming. “And the one thing that is clear from their investigative report is that no one is checking the radioactivity levels; it’s sort of like, well we haven’t thought of it. So that’s a problem.”
And he’s leery of the state’s use of the fluids left over from the hydro fracturing process used in the drilling process.
“I came to learn that the West Virginia Dept of Highways is actually purchasing brine water [or] fracing water, the leftovers, from drilling companies and using it in the winter on roads to help dissolve snow and ice because it has so much salt and brine” says Fleming. “It also has radioactivity that hasn’t been measured.”
After further discussion, the Commissioners unanimously agreed to send a letter outlining their concerns to state legislators, agencies and the Governor. Commissioner Martin Saffer says he will also extend an invitation to Pittsburgh city leaders to come and speak with the Commission. Saffer says the City of Pittsburgh recently passed a ban on drilling within city limits.
In other business, the Commission, with the help of WYK Architect James Swiger, opened the bids for the courthouse elevator project. To say they were surprised would be an understatement. The four bids range from $958,000.00 to over 1.1 million dollars, for a project that was originally estimated to cost around $500,000.00.
All four bids also allow for reductions in the scope of the project. But even with those reductions, the cheapest option would still be around $815,000.00 and that doesn’t include a contingency amount of $65,000.00 for unforeseen problems once construction begins. Commissioner Fleming asked to table the bid award until the next meeting to give them time to consider the proposals. They also asked Swiger to speak to the two lowest bidders to determine the differences in the two proposals.
The Commissioners also took the following actions:
They approved the appointment of Daniel P. Lewis to the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees to fill the unexpired term of Ronald Tibbs.
Approved a request from the Pocahontas County Health Dept to apply for a grant to replace the carpenting in their office with tile, for sanitary reasons.
Approved mowing contracts with Gwynne Furr for the East Fork Industrial Park and with Dick Robinson, for East Cass, respectively. At the request of Commissioner Martin Saffer, the Commission will advertise both of the contracts prior to awarding them next year.
Awarded a bid for work on the courthouse steps to Keith Beverage for $8500.00
And issued a Proclamation recognizing April as National Child Abuse Prevention month.
The Commission took no action on a request from the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation for a $10,000.00 contribution towards the operating costs of the Edray Industrial park.