State of WV Promotes Fracking

Fracking Approved Under Ohio River in Marshall  & Wetzel Counties, WV

From a Report by WTRF News 7 — Wheeling, March 25, 2015

For the first time ever, officials in West Virginia have come to an agreement to allow fracking under the Ohio River. It will happen on about 474 acres of land beneath the river in Marshall and Wetzel Counties.

The deal was reached between the state of West Virginia and Statoil. The company has agreed to pay an average price of $9,000 per acre. The state will receive 20 percent production royalties.

Leasing state-owned land for hydraulic fracturing is a new venture for the state. Many people said they are worried about the effects.

“To me, knowing what I know about fracking in general, you know it seems like it could affect the quality of the water,” said Patricia Thibeault of Moundsville.

Fish Creek resident Robin Hoyt agreed. “I think it’s a little dangerous myself. It could get into the water system, or different things if it would break and it scares me a little bit. All of the gas scares me a little bit because there is just so much of it and so many places now,” she said.

Department of Commerce spokeswoman Chelsea Ruby told the Associated Press that the state is still finalizing drilling agreements with Gastar Exploration and Noble Energy.


Note: The State of WV should have learned lessons from the drilling & fracking in the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area where extensive damages were done to the public lands, the streams, the roads, etc.  Recall the following information posted by SkyTruth:

The Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Boom in Wetzel County, West Virginia

Extracted from an Article by Jim Sheehan, SkyTruth Blog, October 7, 2012

Much of Wetzel County is forest, and as such exemplifies some of the best that “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia has to offer. I believe this forest has particularly high value, ecologically and for other reasons, and may be vulnerable to this type of disturbance.

With the help of SkyTruth, here I explore the recent development of Marcellus (and other unconventional drilling) in Wetzel County. To show the increase in drilling I used well information and geographic coordinates for 102 completed unconventional wells in Wetzel Co. from 2007-2011 that I obtained from the West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey’s “Pipeline-Plus” database.

According to Pipeline-Plus, most of the 102 wells drilled target the Marcellus formation (75 as of 2011), but I also included wells that drill other Devonian Period formations. I did this after zooming in on all the well sites in Google Earth and finding they share a scale of activity (large pads for example) different from the conventional oil and gas drilling long a part of this region. It turns out the other Devonian Period formations can also hold high-value natural gas (wet gas or super-rich gas).

While the state owns the surface, most of the subsurface rights are privately owned. Because the area is public, it’s easy to directly observe the activity (within reason!), which I’ve done since 2008. Wyatt Run is one of the area’s forested headwater streams that in particular interests me, since it was one of the most pristine but now has been degraded by new activity. The integrity of headwater streams is crucial to downstream water quality. Wyatt Run flows to Fishing Creek, which in turn flows to the Ohio River.

The side of the ridge top well pad and a new one that occurred after the 2011 NAIP aerial, have “slipped” substantially due to the steep, rather unstable terrain, and are causing heavily sedimentation in Wyatt Run. There are efforts to correct the problem, but unfortunately it appears to be difficult to stop the erosion. As of September 2012 the sedimentation continues, and there have even been substantial direct impacts to the stream itself. Clearly, better planning is needed during the siting of well pads to avoid situations like this, and the amount of activity, at least in this watershed, appears to be at odds with industry claims of a light environmental footprint.

With new well pads comes much associated infrastructure that can fragment previously continuous forest, and potentially have a negative effect on wildlife that prefer large, undisturbed forest patches. While some wildlife may benefit, new roads and pipelines can also act as corridors – bringing in undesirable or exotic plants and animals. The drilling and site preparation also result in noise and air pollution. I can say first-hand that recreation (hunting, wildlife viewing, etc.) is much reduced in the formerly popular Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area, and heavy vehicle traffic and the dust and potholes it brings seriously disturb the local community.

In closing, given the rapid increase in drilling, it is clear that the impacts to the forests of Wetzel County can happen very quickly.  I wish to use what we can now see to increase awareness of environmental costs seldom heard about, and make them an important consideration in the development of this energy resource.

Jim Sheehan, GIS and remote-sensing specialist & PhD student at WVU, October 7, 2012

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WBOY News 12, Clarksburg, WV

Update: U.S.  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission heard concerns on Atlantic Coast Pipeline project

From an Article by Allen Clayton, WBOY, March 24, 2015

Clarksburg, WV — U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held its final meeting Tuesday evening at Bridgeport High School allowing residents to talk about their concerns of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Corky DeMarco, Executive Director of West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association said they encourage the public to give input regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Many residents are concerned what environmental impacts the pipeline will have. DeMarco said all the disturbances will be temporary and they plan to reseed and replace vegetation.

Some residents were in support of the pipeline project and spoke of the jobs it would provide to West Virginians. Others who were concerned on the impact to the land and wildlife said residents are concerned for some of the endangered species in those areas of the state.

“My principle concern at this point is that local fire departments are not equipped to take care of the effects if a pipe line should explode,” said Tom Bond, Lewis County resident.

Bond also said he’s concerned if the pipeline was to get a hole in it the size of pencil or a little larger could result in an explosion. He also said he feels concerned how emergency crews will be trained to handle those situations.

Original: 3/23/15

U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held a meeting Monday evening at Elkins High School in Randolph County to talk about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity to residents and businesses to verbally comment on the projects. The pipeline project would affect approximately 295.6 miles of a 42-inch-diameter pipeline in Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Randolph, and Pocahontas Counties in West Virginia.

The Commission was speaking about the “Supply Header Project” which would involve construction and operation of approximately 38.7 miles of pipeline loop and the modification of existing compression facilities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A pipeline “Loop” is a segment of pipe constructed parallel to and existing pipeline to increase capacity.

“You’re going to have people here that are for this project because of the jobs that are going to be brought and the economic development that it will have in this area. Then there will be people who will be opposed because maybe the project may be on their property,” said Bob Orndorff, Senior Policy Advisor Dominion, WV.

Proposed construction of the planned facilities would affect more than 12,000 acres of land for the pipeline project and aboveground facilities. The environmental impact of the projects will be considered in one environmental impact statement that will be used by the commission. The commission said in its decision will be to determine whether its projects are a public convenience and necessity.


More Landowners Resisting Gas Pipelines in WV & VA

From an Article by Dan Heyman, Public News Service, March 23, 2015

More landowners are going to court to oppose huge pipelines intended to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to eastern markets. They say they are concerned in part about construction impacts.

CHARLESTON, WV – Huge pipelines intended to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to eastern markets are running into spreading resistance from landowners.  Richmond-based Dominion Resources and its partners have filed about 100 lawsuits against landowners who are resisting surveying crews for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Now landowners in the path of a different pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, have filed preemptive suits to stop surveying crews hired by the Pittsburgh-based EQT energy company and its partners.

Isak Howell is an attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a non-profit organization that represents dozens of landowners along each line. “These companies are proposing to use the right of eminent domain -– the extraordinary power to take private property against the landowners’ wishes – and it should not be granted lightly,” Howell states.

Each pipeline would cost billions of dollars, run for hundreds of miles and carry billions of cubic feet of gas a day. They are designed to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to North Carolina and Virginia, with other connections. Both projects would go through rugged, hard-to-build-in terrain. The companies argue the projects would put people to work and would lower gas prices, which they maintain would be good for the economy.

Howell says the landowners don’t expect to see any benefit in their region, just the negative impact on land and water. “They’re definitely going to have a huge environmental impact out on the land,” he stresses. “The companies should be held to the letter of the environmental laws before these pipelines are ever approved.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will determine much of the future of both projects. Both cross national forests, which complicates the picture. And the landowner lawsuits in state courts will also need to be addressed.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates filed suit on behalf of three families in Summers and Monroe counties. Howell says their cases turn on the interpretation of a law that’s more than a century old.  He says it states a company can use eminent domain for a public use. But he says the gas won’t be used in West Virginia, which leaves open the question of whether it qualifies.

“There’s not a definitive case answering this question that I’ve been able to find, and so, possibly very soon, it’s going to be up to a West Virginia court to decide whether that bar is as high as we think it is,” he explains.

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