Pocahontas County Commissioners Discuss Gas Drilling During Commissioners Corner On AMR
Dunmore, WV – Why isn’t the Pocahontas County Commission doing more to protect county citizens when it comes to Marcellus shale gas drilling? That was the question posed by a caller during the June edition of Commissioners Corner on Allegheny Mountain Radio. Commission President David Fleming says it’s a fair question.
“Why isn’t the County Commission helping people understand more about these leases and what the ramifications are?” asks Fleming. “Quite frankly, speaking for myself, I’m only learning what this means too. And that’s the importance and benefit of having these Marcellus Shale gas drilling meetings at the Commission level so we can all learn more about it.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker agrees that more knowledge is needed.
“This is a pretty major step, because I think basically no one in Pocahontas County has been around it or been affiliated with it prior to this” he says. “It’s kind of what I would call a learning curve – you don’t know all of the problems until some of them have already hit you, and then you’ve got to find a solution to them. The main thing is, if you’re interested in learning more, you need to attend the meetings and come and speak your peace, give us your advice and we can all learn something from it at that point.”
Walker says some landowners may not be looking closely enough at the fine print on leases offered by gas company landmen.
“One problem they run into a lot was the matter of when they do come in and drill, whether you could hook up and get free gas” he says. “A lot of people had the interpretation that they had free gas if they had a well, but a lot of the contracts restricted that.”
“Another thing there seems to be a lot of confusion on is a lot of the contracts for like a five year contract, at the five years is up a lot of people thing there free and clear; but in most cases I’ve seen that is up to the oil and gas company to extend that contract. It’s not up to the landowner at that point; when you sign you agree to allow them to extend it.”
In late may, the Commission heard from Ben Price, a legal expert with considerable experience dealing with gas leases and other related issues in Pennsylvania. He’s authored a draft to ban drilling within the city of Pittsburgh and offered to send a copy of that draft to the Pocahontas County Commission. Fleming says they are still waiting for a copy of the draft. Fleming says he’d also like to hear from other viewpoints in the community.
“This first meeting that we had a couple of weeks ago, predominantly the people there were very concerned with the impacts on the environment that gas drilling poses” he says. “I don’t know that we had many lease holders at the Commission meeting, so as we continue to talk about this, it’s important that we hear from people who are holding leases, who want gas drilling; that we hear from all aspects of the community so that the Commissioners can make informed decisions as we go forward.”
There is an opportunity coming up for those who are interested in learning more about Marcellus Shale Drilling. The WV Sierra Club is presenting the Marcellus Academy, June 18-19th at WV Weslayan College in Buckhannon. The purpose of the academy is to educate volunteer activists about the facts and impacts of drilling with horizontal hydraulic fracturing and to train them on how to bring about meaningful regulation.
Since the WV Sierra Club is paying for all meals and lodging, registration is limited, and applications will be considered based primarily on geographical region. They would like to see more than one person from a community, but the number will depend on applications from the rest of the state. Speakers will include Beth Little, a Pocahontas resident and WV Sierra Club Marcellus Campaign Chair, Leslee McCarty, a former Pocahontas resident and WV Environmental Council lobbyist, and Dave McMahon, Director of the WV Surface Owners Rights Organization.
The Marcellus Academy begins at 10am Saturday June 18th and concludes at 3pm Sunday, June 19th. For more information, please call Chuck Wyrostock toll free at 877-252-0257.