Small Crowd Gathers In Marlinton For Lesson On Marcellus Shale Drilling
Marlinton, WV – Residents from all over Pocahontas County turned out for an educational meeting on Marcellus Shale drilling last Thursday night in Marlinton, hosted by the WVU Extension service and the West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection. Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith and several Council members were also in attendance. None of the County Commissioners were there, much to the surprise of some in the audience.
After a short film on the abc’s of Marcellus drilling, produced by Chesapeake Energy, John King, Environmental Advocate for the WV DEP, spoke about the pros and cons of this type of drilling process. He says fracturing the rock to get the gas out has actually been around for a long time.
“The game changer and what makes Marcellus economically viable to get is the horizontal drilling,” he says. “They can drill 8 thousand feet down and 2 miles out and put that drill through the window.”
He says last year the DEP permitted around 300 Marcellus sites, and they have around 2000 sites in the state.
“Now the [DEP] Office of Oil and Gas, they are the ones who regulate this activity,” says King. “And they’re responsible not just for Marcellus wells, but also 55,000 active wells from years ago, and also 12,000 inactive wells.”
King showed an image from WV Division of Highways video camera that showed no less than 47 trucks passing the camera over a one hour period on their way to a Marcellus well site. He says this is the kind of logistical problem that could easily be worked out between a community and the gas company.
“Up in Wetzel County, that’s exactly what happened,” says King. “When the industry came into Wetzel, it was hot and heavy. Well, one of the things they done is the local citizens formed a group and invited the industry to sit down with them and just have a conversation.”
According to one Wetzel County resident, it was only after this group repeatedly complained about the truck traffic, that the industry finally agreed to create a staging area for their trucks. Diesel fumes and rock dust can also be an issue – King says there are no regulations that prevent multiple water trucks from being parked next to your home and idling for several hours on end. Nor do they address the rock dust stirred up by multiple trucks traveling down dirt roads.
King also spoke about several other aspects of the drilling process such as fugitive emissions, or stray gases coming off the site, noise pollution, because legally a company can drill within 200 feet of a home, and land slippage problems with pipelines and fresh water impoundments, which is the water used for the hydro fracing process. He questions just how fresh those fresh water impoundments are.
“A lot of these fresh water trucks that are hauling water from the Ohio River and putting it in the impoundment are also hauling processed water over to this impoundment or mineral oil,” says King. “So is there cross-contamination? What’s in that fresh water pit? Is it fresh water? What’s that definition?”
A promised question and answer period with King was cut short, in part due to King’s long drive back to Braxton County, and in order to present the next speaker, attorney George Patterson. Patterson gave a quick lesson on some of the ins and outs of negotiating a minerals lease.
County resident Cyla Allison asked Patterson about a clause in her home owners’ policy that prohibits any kind of industrial activity on her land. She says in the event of such activity, her insurance could be cancelled, possibly triggering her mortgage company to demand an immediate payment in full. Patterson downplayed the issue, saying she might have to buy a different policy or modify her existing one.