Drill pads anywhere (and everywhere)?

Oil and gas industry aims to get its way

Guest Commentary by William R. Suan, Morgantown Dominion Post, March 1, 2015

The Marcellus shale once sounded like a financial opportunity that I wanted to be part of; however, it seems we now have an industry out of control using its money, lobbyists and political muscle to bully West Virginia property owners. The issue of forced pooling, fair pooling or lease integration, or whatever the industry wants to call it, is the taking of personal property rights to benefit profits of private corporations.

The industry argues that they cannot develop some mineral tracts because of lost and unaccounted for heirs. West Virginia has a statute addressing the issue, and it is a fair law. When there are missing and unknown heirs, the driller can lease that interest and put royalties in escrow for seven years. After the time is up, the property and royalties go to the surface owner.

The industry complains that the unwilling mineral owners who refuse to sign a lease are stopping them from developing mineral tracts to their full potential. Against unwilling owners who have a partial interest in a mineral tract and are unwilling to sign a lease, the industry can bring a partition action to settle the issue. Another issue is the industry saying we already have forced pooling in the Utica shale. This is a misleading statement. This law was passed before horizontal drilling and was passed for well-spacing purposes.

The gas industry has thousands of acres held by production (old leases) that they are not drilling. The industry says they can drill multiple wells on one Marcellus pad. Why are they not drilling more wells on existing pads? The gas industry has enough acres and leases to drill for many years.

The industry will use a forced pooling law to bully West Virginia property owners. Land men already use the tactic, “If you don’t sign this lease, we will just take it.” I have been threatened this way.

The oil and gas industry can come onto a person’s property, take acres of it because the minerals have been severed and owned by another party. Try to imagine owning property and being helpless when this industry shows up with its equipment and takes whatever it wants. They now want to lay pipelines by using eminent domain and can lay pipelines on property according to terms of an old lease. Now the industry is asking lawmakers to give them the right to come and take the mineral rights you own and tell you what you will be paid for them. This will be used to bring down the price of leases and eliminate negotiation. The mineral owner would have to make his or her case to not be “forced pooled” to the industry-friendly oil and gas commission.

The natural gas industry is a long way from running out of leased mineral tracts to drill. There is no need for a forced pooling law. The industry wants forced pooling to benefit its profits and investors, not West Virginia’s workers and mineral owners.

The industry has pushed this issue in past legislative sessions and it has failed. With the new “business friendly” leadership, I am sure the industry feels this is an opportunity to get its way.

If you want to protect private property rights, contact your legislator and tell them to vote “no” on the forced pooling law.

>>> William R. Suan is a mineral and farm owner near Lost Creek, in southern Harrison County, WV.


We Care about Life Down on the Farm

Let us count the ways energy production causes damages

Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

I remember a Soil Conservation pamphlet I saw as a child called “6,000 years of civilization.” The thesis was that most of the civilizations before the Romans, and the Romans, too, had destroyed the soils in their areas of the Middle East by ignoring soil depletion. Each generation looked out for itself, extracted the yield without thought of the future. Eventually there was not enough food production (transportation was crude and slow) and eventually there was not enough that the armies could hold the empires together. The principal exception was Egypt, which had the renewing soil deposits from the annual Nile flood. It held on for 3,000 years, when the average empire lasted about 250 years.

I thought of this when I read the editorial in the 13 February Science, the Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science which is the world’s largest scientific organization, and the most prestigious place to publish science.  It was titled “Give soils their due.” Being keen on that sort of thing, since I am a life-long farmer, I realize that at any time the earth has a “carrying capacity.” Just like my pasture can only carry so many cows without being degraded, the earth can only support so many people.

I also remember reading about what caused the 1977 revolution in modern Egypt – high price of food got the hungry people out on the street. There was a riot because of food prices in Argentina in 1989 and in one in Italy not many years ago. Nothing gets people stirred up like having hungry kids. I also remember a graph in Science of the population of China on the vertical scale and time on the horizontal scale. Each bump up was labeled with a new food stuff which caused the increase. Millet, very early, dry land rice, wet land rice and toward the present, corn and then potatoes.

The authors of “Give soils their due” also talk about how properly managed soils hold water and purify it, remove carbon from the air and incorporate it in soil organic matter. It reintroduces nutrients from dead plants and unused plant parts, and prevents wind loss in dust storms. All this is linked to human and animal health, as well as food supply.

These authors recognize paving land over for cities, expansion of farming to marginal soils in deserts and far North regions, and cut down the tropical forests. Unfortunately, nothing is said about modern methods of extracting hydrocarbons for energy.

Now let us count the ways present day energy causes damage to the earth and its inhabitants. Drilling in deep ocean water, like the BP disaster, risks spilling very large quantities of oil into the ocean. The biggest fear of that event was that the leak was around the outside of the drill pipe, and the entire oil reservoir would drain out with no way to stop it, a disaster tens or hundreds of times more serious. Seafood and wildlife were damaged as was the productive capacity of the Gulf. The dispersants, used to break up the oil mass were offenders, too. BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors, and a felony count of lying to Congress. BP also agreed to four years of government monitoring of its safety practices and ethics, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that BP would be temporarily banned from new contracts with the US government. As of February 2013, criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost the company $42.2 billion. Drilling in the Arctic, being pushed by the oil companies, would be even worse, since the platforms would be subject to the surging ice, and spill cleanup would, too.

Fracking destroys the surface by pushing aside top soil and covering the spot with crushed stone for the drilling pad and roads, and preventing forest growth along the numerous pipelines. Also by emitting hazardous chemicals into the air from drilling pads and compressor stations, by contaminating aquifers and streams with waterborne chemicals, all of which degrades farming or forestry, and living in the area where fracking is done. Disposal of fracking water causes earthquakes. Storm water is diverted from the natural channels, and it carries contaminates. The huge area that can be subject to fracking is easily recognizable by looking at a map of the shale beds believed to have gas potential. It even affects the area outside of that due to sand mining in the Upper Midwest and waste water disposal in other places.

Shale oil and tar sands have very low Energy Return on Energy Invested. Tar sands need to be diluted with a light oil supplied from somewhere else, other drilling.

Coal is dirty. In addition to the carbon, it contains a wide variety of elements that contaminate the air: sulfur (as much as 5 percent) and heavy metals, which are bad because the body has no mechanism to eliminate them once inhaled or ingested. I remember reading decades ago that coal contains enough uranium and thorium to generate as much power as the coal itself does. It poisons water with selenium, and if it is strip mined, destroys top soil and drainage.

And then there is the product of burning carbon in air. Few articles remind us that one ton of carbon takes two and two-third tons of oxygen out of the air to make three and two-thirds third tons of carbon dioxide. The kicker, though, is that 400 parts by volume in the atmosphere means carbon dioxide is diluted by 2500 more volumes of pure air to reach the concentration of carbon dioxide the atmosphere. Said in another way, one volume of carbon dioxide will pollute 2500 parts of air. The volume of the atmosphere is huge, but our present way of getting energy, now well over 150 years old is now obsolete.

All the different ways to obtain energy above hurt the earth and its people, the poorest first. There is no moral charity in advocating, or for anyone of any faith to advocate, anything other than reducing burning carbon for energy as quickly as rationally possible.

>> Tom Bond is active with the Guardians of the West Fork and other West Virginia citizens concerned about the impacts of proposed large diameter natural gas pipelines.


WV-DEP & Legislators are Gutting our Water Protection Laws

February 28, 2015

It’s Not Water Under the Bridge Editorial, Morgantown Dominion Post, February 27, 2015 You better believe history has a way of repeating itself. Take for instance our state leaders, and agencies, long history of allowing industry to have its way with our natural resources. Never mind the collateral damage done to our environment, especially our [...]

Read the full article →

ACP & MVP Pipeline Routes of Concern in West Virginia

February 27, 2015

Seven pipeline routes identified through Pocahontas County From an Article by Geoff Hamill, Pocahontas Times, February 25, 2015 A Dominion Resources map shows a preferred and five alternative Atlantic Coast pipeline routes through the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) and Pocahontas County. Dominion has stated its intent to survey just the preferred route (shown in blue) [...]

Read the full article →

WV Legislature Rolling Back Storage Tank Regulations

February 26, 2015

WV Legislators Working to Roll Back Above-ground Tank Regulations From an Article by Glynis Board, WV Public Broadcasting, February 26, 2015 State senators in Charleston took action this week to roll back aboveground tank regulations put in place after last year’s chemical spill which contaminated water for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians. The Senate [...]

Read the full article →

Who is Watching the Crashing Crude Trains?

February 25, 2015

Hard Look at Oil on Rail Tanker Cars Investigative reporter Marcus Stern of Inside Climate News was interviewed on NPR’ Fresh Air, on Wednesday, February 24, 2014. Here is the audio recording of that broadcast. If you listen to this thru, you will be shocked! He discusses the crude oil train wrecks in Quebec, Alabama, [...]

Read the full article →

US Government Predicts 10 Derailments a Year for Fuel Trains

February 24, 2015

Subject: Feds predicts up to 10 derailments a year of fuel-hauling trains • Article by Matthew Brown and Josh Funk, Associated Press, February 22, 2015 Billings, Mont. — The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more [...]

Read the full article →

Fossil Fuels’ Damages Get Lost in the Gee Whiz Rhetoric

February 23, 2015

Energy needs could actually fit quite nicely in just one desert Guest Commentary by Mark B. Tauger, Morgantown Dominion Post, February 23, 2015 WVU President E. Gordon Gee’s remarks about solar power were recently quoted (DP-Tuesday) as: “Replacing fossil-fuel energy with alternative energy means ‘we would have to pave this country in windmills and solar [...]

Read the full article →

Cleanup Continues at WV RR Derailments, Explosions, Fires

February 22, 2015

Cleanup continues at site of derailments, some residents return home From the Article by David Gutman, Charleston Gazette, February 21, 2015 Photo from Paul Corbit Brown enhanced by David Adam Coffey shows crude oil in streams; click on it to enlarge it. Almost everyone has returned to their homes, the road is half open and [...]

Read the full article →

Gas Industry is Pushing Forced Pooling Again this Year in WV Legislature

February 21, 2015

Citizen Input to the Legislature is Essential on Most Bills From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, February 20, 2015 Whether one wants to call it “forced pooling” or “unitization,” Tim Greene said allowing Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas producers to drill on unleased land will give the industry an unfair advantage in [...]

Read the full article →