Cheat Summit Overlook, Randolph & Pocahontas County Line

Report by Lauren Ragland, July 28, 2014

[PHOTO - Courtesy of Amy Mitchem] Cheat Summit Overlook, Randolph / Pocahontas County line, WV. National Scenic Highway, Stau​n​ton-Petersburg Turnpike. View of Dominion’s proposed transmission pipeline: SE-Pipeline. [The black water line circle is the actual size of the proposed 42" dry gas transmission pipe. The pink hula hoop represents the actual size of the 36" Keystone transmission pipeline.]

VIEW —  Looking below and beyond over the endless green vista, it is impossible to imagine this becoming an industrial zone. The majority of the land is within the Monongahela National Forest, which the innocent believe is protected from development.

This view from the Randolph / Pocahontas county line could and would be destroyed by many massive, loud, toxic Compressor Stations that would dot the landscape.

Dominion stated in their original March and April 2014 press releases that industry standards require Compressor Stations every 10-40 miles to move​ the dry gas over the high elevation of our mountains.

SIZE – Dominion’s proposed SE-Pipeline is larger than the thirty-six inch diameter Keystone transmission pipeline at forty-two inches.

In the photo the black water line hoop is the actual size of the 42″ transmission pipe. The pink hula hoop represents the actual size of the 36″ Keystone transmission pipeline.

Natural gas companies are reluctant to ​mention publically that their massive Compressor Stations of two story turbines and radiators also include huge Liquid Separators. Another surprise is​ the Valve Meter Stations placed every two to five miles along the five hundred mile pipeline, requiring access. Have you heard yet about the helicopters and infra-red cameras flying by looking for leaks?

US Route 250, is the historic 175 year old Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, and is within the heart of the ten-mile proposed path of SE-Pipeline. It winds through Civil War camps, battlefields​,​ cemeteries and ​rail road towns surrounded by the mountains.

Online at the Staunton Parkersburg Turnpike website, US Route 250 is described as having “breathtaking mountain views, fresh air, and wildlife are all abundant along the Turnpike in West Virginia. For nature-lovers and civilization-leavers, the Old Pike is a beautiful drive. Today the drive along the Turnpike through Pocahontas and Randolph Counties is still beautiful and idyllic, with varying shades of foliage through all seasons of weather. While many scenic byways promise a beautiful country road, driving the S-P Turnpike is like driving back through time.”

EDUCATING – A team of West Virginia citizens has been devoted to educating the local elected officials and the general public since the first week of June when the WV Gazette and Pocahontas Times printed the Dominion press release of May 18, 2014.

Lauren Ragland founder of WV Wilderness Lovers and Ed Wade Jr of Wetzel County Action group have made presentations at the Pocahontas Commissioners Meeting and the Mill Creek Town Council in July, and on August 7th will speak at the Randolph County Commissioners meeting at 1PM and at 6PM will host the first Public Meeting on the SE-Pipeline in West Virginia, at the Durbin Fire Hall.

At this point Dominion representatives have both cancelled scheduled meetings and not responded to requests for alternative spokespersons. There are dozens of questions that the residents of Randolph and Pocahontas County would like answered. The maps Dominion provided were “out of focus on purpose as to not cause fear,” stated both WV spokesperson Robert Orndorff​  and VA spokesperson Frank Mack.

Visit the Facebook  site “WV Wilderness Lovers vs P​roposed P​ipeline” and the FERC-101 Blog where one can learn the known health dangers and public safety hazards of pipeline development and operation.

CONTACTS:  Lauren Ragland (304-339-2598) and Ed Wade Jr. (304-775-5046).


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This Gas Boom is Wrecking Havoc on Rural America

by Duane Nichols on July 29, 2014

Woops! Show me a Shale Well Pad this small, this neat, this clean?

Hard Facts About Fracking | OnEarth Magazine (NRDC)

From an Article by Scott Dodd, Natural Resources Defense Council, July 21, 2014

A new book evaluates whether natural gas is a ‘transitional fuel’ to a low-carbon future—or perhaps, more like a methadone addiction that’s tearing apart rural communities.

Growing up in northern West Virginia in the 1970s, I remember seeing a lot of big white plastic candy canes sticking out of the ground, marking the natural gas pipelines that ran just below the surface. You’d encounter them along streams and fence lines and the backcountry roads that always made me carsick. What I didn’t realize as a kid was how much of my family history was intertwined with those hidden gas lines.

My great-great-grandfather, William Dodd, helped lay some of the first pipe across the state, working for a subsidiary of Standard Oil at a time when John D. Rockefeller craved alternatives to oil (not for any environmental reason, but because even back then he was worried we would run out). William’s son was an administrator for Hope Gas, and his grandson (my grandfather) was a supervisor at a company extraction plant on the Ohio River. Then my dad spent his career as a corporate executive for Hope’s successor, Consolidated Natural Gas, until it was gobbled up by Dominion Resources.

That time line of mergers and name changes—from Hope to Dominion—serves as a rather succinct summary of the role of natural gas in the U.S. economy over the past couple of centuries. First used commercially in 1821 to light lamps in Fredonia, New York—almost four decades before an oil well was drilled in nearby Pennsylvania—gas has nevertheless remained oil’s “invisible twin,” as David Waples put it in his 2005 book, The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia. Gas was often seen as an unwanted by-product, frequently burned off because coal was cheaper and oil more versatile.

Fracking, as Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold writes in The Boom, has changed all that, fundamentally altering both the U.S. economy and the nature of communities across the country. That’s because it takes place literally in our backyards. Much of the most recent wave of natural gas drilling is occurring in densely populated states like Pennsylvania, California, Ohio, and Illinois. Small towns are now ground zero for the noise, industrial activity, and environmental and health concerns associated with fossil fuel extraction.

By last year, roughly one out of 20 Americans lived within a mile of a recently fracked well. “This new proximity between wells and homes is one of the defining features of the new energy landscape,” Gold writes. And this change has happened in a minuscule amount of time—less than a decade, in most of the country—driven by technological innovation and Wall Street financing, without the corresponding changes in community awareness and the government safeguards needed to ensure fracking’s safety.

For most of his well-researched book, Gold focuses more on the history of hydraulic fracturing and the businessmen behind the boom than on its environmental impact. He’s a diligent reporter and able profiler of the mostly dull petroleum engineers and slightly more colorful energy company execs, men like the controversial Aubrey McClendon, who made their fortunes from fracking. But he never quite brings to life the impact on families and communities in the way that Seamus McGraw manages in his more personal and intimate The End of Country, published in 2011.

When Gold does turn from chronicling the boom to evaluating its consequences, however, he reaches a very simple conclusion: we need to slow down. Our communities, our health, our water, and our future climate, he says, could very well depend on it.

Throughout my family’s four generations in the industry, wells were sunk mostly the old-fashioned way: drill a hole in the ground at a likely spot, hope to hit a pocket of gushing oil or gas, then pump the fuel out over a long period of time, with diminishing returns every year as the pocket emptied and pressure subsided. When my grandfather died a couple of years ago, he left my father shares in three West Virginia wells, all decades old, that still pump a trickle of gas today.

What changed all of that was a process originally patented in 1948 by Halliburton, though the idea goes back even further—all the way to the original Titusville, Pennsylvania, oil boom, when a court-martialed lieutenant colonel created a “petroleum torpedo” to fracture rocks in order to access more fuel. It wasn’t until 1998 that a 34-year-old engineer named Nick Steinsberger suggested the revolutionary idea of using mostly water—but massive volumes of water, mixed with a cocktail of chemicals to reduce friction—to fracture the dense slabs of Texas’s Barnett Shale and release the fuel trapped inside. (The word trapped is a bit of a misnomer; the gas is essentially part of the shale rock itself, embedded in tiny holes you can only see with a $2 million scanning electron microscope.)

When Steinsberger proposed using water, the idea was counterintuitive, to say the least. One of his bosses said he would “eat his diploma” if it worked. But Steinsberger was successful (no word on how the diploma tasted), and “the era of the massive slick-water frack had begun,” Gold writes.

Steinsberger’s “massive” volume of water was actually paltry by today’s standards. He used 1.2 million gallons; some modern wells employ five times as much. And while he drilled straight down, what has made fracking even more effective is the ability to turn the drill horizontally, sometimes for as much as two miles, breaking up more deep shale from a single pad aboveground.

Fracking a single well requires what Gold describes as a “movable factory,” and the equipment, trucks, pipelines, and all the other associated infrastructure, as well as the demands on water, the waste, and the manpower involved, are what makes modern gas drilling such a disruptive force in communities. And because of the perversities of the market (companies are judged by Wall Street on the basis of how many new wells they drill and how quickly), the United States is now producing more natural gas than it can use.

“Perhaps it’s best to think of natural gas like methadone.”

Most critically, the cumulative environmental and health impacts of all this fracking remain to be seen. In the battle for the U.S. energy future, gas is winning, and its ascendancy over coal helped the United States cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent between 2007 and 2012, Gold writes (gains in energy efficiency and better fuel standards for cars are the other big reasons). But the gas glut also slowed the development of wind and solar energy, and while gas may be cleaner than coal (and some studies even cast doubt on that), it’s far from clean.

Gold gives McClendon’s financial maneuvering much credit for the fracking boom, but he makes it clear that a combination of market forces, disruptive technology, and government support drove the revolution. The lessons for wind and solar are obvious: “create the right market signals, set smart long-term policy goals, and let the technologists develop needed breakthroughs.” If fracking can indeed provide the road map for a low-carbon economy, as he believes, it might be argued that this justifies some of the damage and disruption it has wrought. Just don’t try to tell that to the people living next to the drill pads.

“Perhaps it’s best,” Gold posits, “to think of natural gas like methadone. It’s a way for an energy-addicted society to get off dirtier fuels and smooth out the detox bumps.” But whether or not gas can provide a path to cleaner energy, there’s no doubt that the rapid, unexpected, and largely unregulated expansion of fracking has brought disruption and risk to families across the country—even those who benefited economically. “Nobody would argue that a nuclear plant should be built as quickly as possible without spending the necessary time to ensure it is safe and robust,” Gold writes. “Fracking is different. The risks of any single well are tiny compared to a nuclear power plant. But several hundred wells? Several thousand?”

My parents now live in western Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh, a mile above the Marcellus Shale formation that has made their state a hotbed of drilling activity. There’s a new fracking well being erected about a mile from their suburban cul-de-sac; they can see it from their driveway. What it will mean for their lives, it’s too soon to say. But one thing is for sure: it’s a lot bigger than those candy cane markers I remember from my childhood.

Like this article? Donate to NRDC to support OnEarth’s groundbreaking nonprofit journalism.


More or Less 6.5 Percent of the Gas from a Shale Field is Recovered

July 28, 2014

Residual Wastewater Tanker Truck Out of Control in Holding Pond Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor and Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV Recorded human history goes back some 8 or 10,000 years. How much future does the human race have? I recently came across a reference to an article in the Oil and [...]

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The Collapse of our Civilization: A View From 2393

July 27, 2014

Some 14 concepts that will be obsolete after catastrophic climate change From an Article by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Authors of Book, Washington Post, July 25, 2014 Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology at the California Institute of [...]

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Scientists Link Frack Wastewater Well to Over 200 Earthquakes

July 26, 2014

University of Colorado  Scientists Link 10,800-Foot-Deep Fracking Wastewater Well to More Than 200 Earthquakes From an Article by Brandon Baker,, July 25, 2014 When the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered NGL Water Solutions to stop fracking wastewater injection operations a month ago, a team of University of Colorado Boulder researchers began conducting its own investigation. [...]

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Health Professionals are Concerned about Frack Area Residents

July 25, 2014

Families sick from fracking exposure turn to concerned scientists From an Article by Lisa Song, Inside Climate News, July 23, 2014 Like people in other regions transformed by the shale energy boom, residents of Washington County, Pennsylvania have complained of headaches, nosebleeds and skin rashes. But because there are no comprehensive studies about the health impacts [...]

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Water Tank Truck Driver Killed on PA Route 88 in Greene County

July 24, 2014

Driver killed after water tank truck goes off Route 88 in rollover crash in Greene County From a News Report of WTAE, News 4, Pittsburgh, July 16, 2014 JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP, Pa. - A driver who carried water for the oil and gas industry was killed after his large tank truck rolled over, hit another vehicle and [...]

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Huge Loss of Jobs Forecast for Europe due to US Shale Boom

July 23, 2014

Europe Risks Losing 30 Million Jobs to U.S. Shale Boom By Priyanka Sharma and Lananh Nguyen, Bloomberg News, July 17, 2014  The U.S. shale-gas boom is placing 30 million jobs at risk in Europe as companies with greater reliance on energy contend with higher fuel prices than their American counterparts, the International Energy Agency said. Manufacturers [...]

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Over 70,000 Fish & Aquatic Creatures Killed by Pollution from Ohio Frack Well Fire

July 22, 2014

Evidence shows that frack well site fire polluted creek & killed fish and other creatures From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, July 22, 2014 Article Photos: An EPA report states that about 70,000 fish and other aquatic life were found dead near the Statoil Eisenbarth well pad and Opossum Creek in Monroe County [...]

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Two New Fracking Videos of WV by Cineplex Rex

July 21, 2014

Two New Fracking Videos by Cineplex Rex, July 18, 2014 Who doesn’t remember the John Denver song with lyrics about “Take Me Home Country Roads”, and “Almost Heaven — West Virginia”? Many people have had wonderful life experiences in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. Unfortunately now it is more like ‘Oh My God!’  What are they [...]

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