Proposed Ordinance Rejected By Public At Pocahontas County Commission Meeting
Marlinton, WV – During the November 15th meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission, a proposed ordinance addressed at regulating horizontal drilling in the county was soundly thrashed by the public as a thinly veiled attempt at instituting zoning. For background on the ordinance, you have to go back to the November 1st meeting of the Commission when they discussed the ordinance created by WVU Law Professor Robert Bastress and local attorney Roger Foreman. Bastress says he crafted the ordinance in such a way as to avoid being over ridden by state law, as heard in this exchange with Commissioner Martin Saffer.
In the ordinance I drafted, I used that language,” says Bastress. “To clarify my mind, the legislature is saying that we could not ban fracking as that is a drilling procedure which they say they have preemptive authority to regulate,” says Saffer. “Right,” says Bastress.
Part of the ordinance defines industrial operation in such a way that it could apply to almost any business currently operating or new businesses in the county, from farming to timbering to power generation – again, Robert Bastress.
“You know, it sorta makes it look more like a zoning law or land use law to fit within that preemption provision in the proposed statute,” he says. “And almost all those conditions are subject of course to consent by the County Commission and those are other kinds of uses which could threaten the interest of the county in sort of preserving its farming, tourism and timbering industries.”
It was that key word mentioned by Bastress, zoning, that drew a large crowd of people to the Commission’s meeting on November 15th. Of the estimated 100 people in attendance, 42 spoke, with almost everyone soundly against this ordinance.
“I think it’s redundant to even consider this considering that we have the EPA and a state DEP which oversees not only water quality, but air quality in this country,” says Cassey Wallace.
“It might never come about, why are you all having this ordinance thinking now?,” asks George Nottinham. “I think you need to wait until you find out and see what the state of West Virginia does.”
“When I first saw it this afternoon, I thought it was way too far reaching, too much at the will of whatever Commission is sitting at that moment,” says Margaret Worth. “I thought it must have been put out as a response to the discussion about the fracking, but it sure didn’t look like that.”
“Definitely rewording is going to be one of your first steps, publication second, voting third,” says Randy Sharp. “I am definitely against telling anyone in this room what they may or may not do in the privacy of their own home, or in the boundaries of their own property that falls under the legal law.”
“You’re all right on as far as I’m concerned about this ordinance actually,” says Cyla Allison, “even though probably my organization was the cause of it being written, and I’m not happy with it.”
Just some of the voices heard during the discussion of the ordinance Tuesday night. Allison, President of the Eight Rivers Council, also presented a petition containing 110 signatures of those opposed to drilling in the county. This is in addition to a similarly worded petition with over 600 signatures presented to the Commission this past September.
The Commissioners took no action on the ordinance Tuesday night.