Marcellus Shale Development Challenges Mineral Owners, Surface Owners and the Public Domain

by Duane Nichols on April 14, 2011

The Industralization of Rural West Virginia is Underway (

State Senator Clark Barnes, 60, has represented Randolph County in the West Virginia Senate since 2004; and, now he is a candidate for Governor.  He is after a fair deal for property owners who enter leases for Marcellus shale gas development.

“When out-of-state leasing hit in my area, I was very concerned about the leasing process,” Barnes said. “I wanted to make sure they got better leases than our great-grandparents did. I saw that many of the leases were identical to the ones my great-grandfather signed.”

One of the state’s biggest weaknesses related to the Marcellus Shale drilling industry is the lack of inspectors available to monitor wells, Barnes said. It is presently required that Marcellus Shale inspectors have six years of experience, Barnes said, noting that those with that much experience must have previously worked for the oil and gas companies. “This is a detriment in the hiring process, and it assures the inspectors are regulating their former employers,” he said.

The area is also challenged with significant land disturbances, as seen in various news accounts and web-sites with descriptions and photographs.  The WV Surface Owners Rights Organization has reported that rural areas are being industrialized without public planning or input from local land owners.

Conventional shallow wells that cost $300,000.00 to drill have given way to 6 to 8 horizontal wells drilled from one well site.  And each horizontal well costs $3 Million or more to drill.  This drilling causes an exponential increase in surface disturbance, water use and waste disposal. It also requires compressor stations and staging areas and greatly increases demands on roads and other infrastructure.”

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