Resident Worries That Pocahontas County Could Face Gas Drilling Problems Similar To Wetzel County
Marlinton, WV – Ever since discussions about Marcellus Shale gas drilling first surfaced in Pocahontas, county resident Brynn Kusic has been diligent about educating herself about the issue. At the Pocahontas County Commission meeting Tuesday night, she told the Commissioners about attending the Citizen Lobby day during last winters’ session of the West Virginia legislature. At that session she heard two Wetzel County farmers talking about the effects of Marcellus Shale drilling on their farms. She says they are surface owners only, with no control over the mineral rights under their land, and at first welcomed the gas company to start the drilling process.
“Hearing these men speak it was clear that they had absolutely no idea what in reality that looked like” says Kusic. “So I became very interested in the farmers of Wetzel County, and was very interested in that point in time to go and tour that area.”
She had an opportunity to do just that about a month ago.
“Being in that County and seeing that level of concentrated activity happening was an education all to its own” she says. “And what I was witnessing was really beyond even what my imagination could’ve allowed even with all the facts and the stories that I had read. And I really started to think about what that would look like in our community.”
Kusic says what struck her about Wetzel is that it’s similar to Pocahontas in terms of having agriculture, forestry, small winding roads, and picturesque beauty.
“The infrastructure started to [be] built there, they started to come in at the same time that people started to lease people’s [mineral] rights here” she says. “In terms of a parallel for Pocahontas County, it’s like what Pocahontas County could look like now if when folks are coming in to sign leases, they actually started to develop the resource.”
Kusic says Wetzel County is dealing with issues like roads crumbling under the weight of the vehicles used to transport hydro fracturing fluids and drilling equipment, and the danger of a catastrophic accident involving a gas truck.
“And with the roads and accidents, another thing I hadn’t thought about is in Wetzel County, they now actually have escorts for the school buses” she says. “So when these tractor trailers are coming through or there’s a lot of activity happening, the Chesapeake [gas company] security or the local law enforcement has to provide escorts for the school buses.”
Kusic invited the Commission to visit the Wetzel county farms to see the effects of drilling for themselves. She’d also like the Wetzel farmers to come to Pocahontas to speak. Dr. Cyla Allison, President of Eight Rivers Council, a group dedicated to preserving the water quality in Pocahontas, also pledged her help and resources towards educating people about this issue.
On a related note, the Commission approved sending a letter to the US Forest Service asking for clarification about their policy towards disbursing fracturing fluids on forest land. A previous disbursal of these fluids in the Fearnow experimental forest had a devastating effect on the flora of the area.
The Commission also took the following actions:
Approved a request by the Pocahontas Convention and Visitors Bureau to use the old hospital lot and gazebo in Marlinton on September 10th, 17th and October 15th
To purchase a room air conditioning unit for the Magistrate assistants office in the basement of the courthouse
And a letter of support to the Mountain State Railroad & Logging Historical Association for the restoration of the Cass power house.