Pocahontas County Commission Views Video About Dangers Of Hydrofraturing Drilling

Marlinton,WV – The Pocahontas County Commissioners heard from a hydraulic fracturing expert during their meeting Tuesday morning. Commissioner Martin Saffer provided a March, 2010 video presentation of Anthony Inngraffea, a Cornell University engineering professor who has over three decades of experience studying the way rocks and other materials fracture. In the video, Inngraffea was speaking before a group of concerned citizens in southern New York state. Commissioner Saffer explained why he felt it was important to watch it during the Commission meeting.

“Because I want to record it for people to be able to watch it on the internet,” he says. “What this shows is the enormity of what’s in front of us. When you hear this you will understand that the problem that confronts us is hugely serious.”

By his own admission, Inngraffea says he is not always 100% objective about gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing, because of the potential dangers to the environment and to human health. Nevertheless, rather than taking a not here, not now, not ever stance towards drilling, he instead cautions against any drilling activities until residents, gas companies, and regulatory agencies have a better understanding of how to do it without causing permanent damage. Citing information from the 1975 book Boom Town by John S. Gilmore, based on a case study of Rock Springs in Green River, Wyoming, he lists the 4 stages of boom town activities.

Enthusiasm – the stage that concentrates on the positive aspects like job growth and increased revenues. He says it’s also characterized by little objective knowledge, especially of negative aspects of the activity.

Uncertainty – in this stage, the town or community starts to see small changes, people begin to realize there are negative impacts that might grow, and the town may become increasing polarized around the drilling activity.

Near Panic – industrial activity and impacts develop far faster than expected, and the community starts to change drastically; government services are overloaded and the realization that revenues won’t match expenditures.

Adaptation – core problems are identified, planning and mitigation strategies are developed and development opponents start to accept the situation.

Inngraffea says per industry requirements, drillers need at least 80 acres to have sufficient space to create a fully producing Marcellus shale gas field. That could mean a well pad with up to 8 well heads spread not like the spokes of a wheel, as commonly thought, but in opposite directions. Imagine a flattened spider with four legs pointing in one direction, with the other four in the opposite direction and you get the picture. He says in parts of Pennsylvania, some well pads have as many as 12 well heads.

As for the fracing process itself, Inngraffea says this is the only method they can effectively use in the Marcellus shale because of the thin, tightly layered formation of the shale. He says the cocktail used to fracture the shale contains proppants or a type of drilling sand, gelling agents, biocides, breakers, fluid-loss additives, anti-corrosives, friction reducers and acids. At the time the video was made, there were no permits being issued in New York. The name of the video is Essential Dissent: The Marcellus Gas Shale Play.

In a related action, the Pocahontas County Commissioners also agreed to hire the Forman Law firm to assist Dr. Robert Bastress on drafting legal documentation against Marcellus drilling in Pocahontas. Commissioner Jamie Walker opposed hiring Bastress, and said he had similar feelings towards hiring Forman.

“I just don’t feel like we need to turn them loose,” says Walker, “and let them work when they want to work. If we need them, that’s one thing, but just for them to be continuously sending us bills for no result.”

“I think we do need them,” says Commission President David Fleming. “I think we need a timeline.”

The motion to hire the Forman Law firm passed on a two to one vote with Walker opposed. Fleming also set a deadline of November 1st to get the required information from the attorneys.

In other business, the Commission officially awared the bid for the final phase of the East Fork Industrial Park remediation project to RBS, Inc of White Sulphur Springs, per the recommendation of project engineer John Swecker.

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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