Pocahontas Residents Have Differing Views On Best Way To Preserve County Lifestyle
Marlinton, WV – Dr. Cyla Allison, President of the Eight Rivers Council, an environmental group opposed to Marcellus drilling in Pocahontas County, was in professor mode as she spoke before the Pocahontas County Commission during their regular meeting Tuesday. At an earlier meeting Commissioner Jamie Walker commented that few in the county would turn down an offer of $4800.00 per acre to lease their minerals. At the meeting Tuesday, Allison sought to show why that offer wouldn’t be as economically sound as one might presume.
Allison cites a video called Battle for Wetzel County, a story about landowner Ed Wade who has already lost two of the three parcels of land that generate his farm income to drilling activities. She says he fears losing the third.
“And he’s going to lose his income and he’s not going to be able to also sell his property,” she says. “He can’t realize the income from his property to move on and do something else in his life. So he loses his means of earning an income, and he also loses the equity in his property; so he’s really stuck. All of a sudden $4800.00 an acre doesn’t look like so much.”
She also points to an article in the New York Times in November about Stacey Haney, from Amwell Township in southwestern Pennsylvania. This past summer, Haney and her neighbors received their first royalty checks from nine wells drilled on the square mile between them. Since the wells went in, half of the $9000.00 royalty check she received has been spent on doctor’s bills and she was forced to move away from the area to protect the health of herself and children. She now live in a trailer behind her parents’ home in Amity, several miles down the road, but still returns to her farm every day to feed their farm animals.
“And she said, I have to worry every day if my kids are going to have cancer,” reads Allison. “I worry for the rest of my life about them with the amount of carcinogens we now have in our blood; we’ve lost everything, the pets, the value of our house. No amount of money that we ever get from royalties would replace my children’s health.”
Commissioner Walker offers his viewpoint.
“I just wonder out of the people who would turn down that $4800.00 an acre how many of them was born here, was raised here, gets up at 4 o’ clock in the morning, works probably 2 to 3 jobs at a minimum to make their house payments, their car payments and feed their kids; I’m one of them people,” he says. “And I’m not saying I’m in agreement of leasing my land, I’m not. But when I can’t feed my family, yes I will lease my land.”
Commissioner Martin Saffer calls the drilling issue is a metaphor for deeper underlying tensions in the county, possibly between those born here and those who moved here.
“I don’t want gas drilling here, wouldn’t want it ever, ever; but I don’t think it’s going to come,” he says. “And why are we arguing with each other, what is the tension between us that causes this hostility sometimes. Now what is it – is it that we just don’t like each other; what really is the problem? If we could solve that, then how to deal with our future would be a lot easier.”
Commission President David Fleming says he doesn’t share Saffer’s view that drilling in the county is unlikely. He says he’s trying to arrange his schedule to attend a special session of the West Virginia legislature on new Marcellus rules, if Governor Tomblin calls for one. Walker points out that he’s not heard from any business in the county in favor of any resolution or ordinance and is opposed to any action that threatens individual property rights.
Clay Condon, a Vista for the Pocahontas Water Resource Task Force, says the Commission must exert some influence over possible drilling in the county.
“Cause if we just let them come in a drill with the regulations as is, that will change Pocahontas County more than any of us ever could; any regulation that we could ever pass,” he says.
Tune in for noon hour on Monday, December 12th for more from the Pocahontas County Commission meeting.