Industry Executives and WV Residents Speak at Wheeling Legislative Hearing

by Duane Nichols on July 22, 2011

Deborah Kittle and Delegate Tim Manchin. Photo by Dee Fulton.

Some 150 people, including state legislators, natural gas industry representatives, property owners and concerned residents, assembled at the WV Northern Community College  in Wheeling on Thursday for a hearing by the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Marcellus Shale.

Deletate Tim Manchin of Marion County conducted the hearing.  He said mineral owners have rights to see their minerals extracted – despite possible objections from surface owners.  This is an established rule based on English Common Law that is very unlikely to change. Manchin limited everyone to 2 minutes of speaking time.  There were 10 speakers for the gas industry and some 24 who expressed concerns about it. 

It was reported that Chesapeake Energy currently employs about 800 WV residents. As the most active natural gas driller in the Upper Ohio Valley, Chesapeake provided Marietta, Ohio, native Zack Arnold an employment opportunity that allowed him to return to the Ohio Valley from California. “When I got to Jane Lew, we had 30 employees in the office. Now we have 150,” he said. 

Spencer Wooddell of Taylor county said a gas drilling company is working on his neighbor’s property, adjacent to his 325-acre farm. He said three drilling-related spills have overflowed onto his land since December of 2010. He’s concerned about his livestock, as the animals drink from springs on his property.

Steve Conlon, Bill Hughes and Deborah Kittle of Wetzel County do not oppose the natural gas extraction – they just want to keep their water and air clean, while making sure landmen do not “bully” mineral owners.  Hughes said the state DEP needs to monitor air pollution from drilling sites. “No one in the State monitors air emissions at any well site, ever,” he said. Deborah Kittle said her husband is a 4th generation cow-calf farmer in Marshall county and a “ conservation farmer”.  They have leased their gas rights and currently have drilling going on their farm.  She said “I’m not against drilling.  I just want it done right.” A sign on her door says, “In God we trust.  All others we monitor.”

The next hearing will be this coming Monday evening at 7:30 PM at the WVU College of Law in Morgantown.

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