Pocahontas County Commissioners Discuss Marcellus Survey
Dunmore, WV – The residents of Pocahontas County spoke and the Commission listened – residents don’t want to see a question about Marcellus drilling on the ballot in the county. But many have suggested a survey on the issue. But that raises questions too – about the cost and more importantly, do those surveyed have enough information about the issue to carefully and thoughtfully answer the questions. It was a topic of discussion during the January edition of Commissioners Corner on Allegheny Mountain Radio.
This is a concern for Commissioner Jamie Walker,
“As far as the survey goes, I think a lot of people is lacking the education that would be needed to properly answer any question at this point,” he says. “When you’re asked the question do you want drilling’ does that mean do you want drilling today, do you want drilling five years from now, do you want drilling ten years from now – things are changing dramatically. They have put more money in research that any other project that has ever took on in the United States short of NASA as far as the dollar wise that’s put into the research and development of the horizontal drilling.”
And Walker says resident’s voice’s need to be heard irregardless of whether or not they are registered voters.
“If you’re a property owner or resident of Pocahontas County, whether you’re registered, whether you vote, you’re still paying taxes; you’re still supporting the county,” says Walker. “So in my opinion, you have a right to speak for your property rights. Now if you’re not paying taxes, and you’re not a resident, then that’s a questionable issue.”
Commission President David Fleming agrees with Walker on this point, but says there are other considerations too.
“This is something that has come up, including the sewer plant issue from time to time; if you’re a second home owner and you pay property taxes but you’re not registered to vote, what voice do you have,” he says. “It’s in a sense a form of taxation without representation. So I do agree we need to find a way to reach more of the demographic.”
Fleming says it may require more than one survey to accurately gauge the feelings of residents and second home owners on this issue. When it comes to mineral rights leases, some have suggested including language in the lease that would protect the resources of land owners and their neighbors. Commissioner Martin Saffer stresses this is not something the Commission can do as a governing body.
“If you really concerned about property rights, you really need to get a lawyer to advocate for you and what is in your best interest,” says Saffer. “The person who wants to protect their rights needs the best lawyer, because believe me the oil companies and the gas companies, they have good lawyers too.”
Fleming says he likes the idea of a free legal clinic for those who can’t afford their own lawyer. The Commission is also looking into the possibility of bringing other environmental and industry experts to the county to further their goal of educating the populace on this issue.