Packed House at Morgantown Public Hearing; Advocates for Regulation in Majority

by Dee Fulton on July 26, 2011

Monongalia County resident Howard Clark speaks at the public hearing.

Over 50 people were lined up at the  doors to the auditorium at the WVU Law School an hour before the 7:30PM meeting.  The meeting started about 15 minutes late as 70-8o people signed-in as speakers and the rest of the crowd numbering around 250 in total found seats.  Thus began a meeting originally scheduled to be 90 minutes but which stretched over 3 hours as 73 speakers addressed the panel of West Virginia House Delegates who serve on the Special Committee.  Delegate Tim Manchin (D-Marion) presided and granted each speaker two minutes to speak rather than shortening the allotted speaking time.  Five state senators also serve on the Special Committee but they did not attend this meeting nor the previous Wheeling meeting.

A tally showed that of the 73 speakers, roughly 3/4 spoke in favor of regulation, enforcement, fees, protection of public lands, protection of surface owners rights,  and a need for health monitoring.  Many speakers concluded by stating that if strong regulation is not implemented, a moratorium should be instituted until such happens.  The remaining 1/4 of the speakers, principally spokespersons and employees of the gas industry, promoted the industry as bringing jobs to the state and allowing independence from foreign oil.

Stacy Brodak, spokesperson for Chesapeake Energy, pointed out that the company worked with a community to address problems that were encountered.   Two Chesapeake engineers, Chris Bartran and Nate Stone, praised their employer for employing Best Management Practices, including closed loop systems and frack water recycling.

Bill Yahner presented on behalf of  the Coopers Rock Foundation.  The Foundation is calling for a ban of fracking at all state parks, forests and wildlife management areas.

Kathy Cash, an organizer for WV4MOM, called for a ban on all carcinogenic fracking fluids.

Cat McConnell stated “Even the greatest law will be no good at all if we don’t have adequate inspectors.  Good drillers need a level playing field”.   Strong enforcement will force bad drillers to employ the better standards used by other drillers.

“We are currently using gold, which is water, to mine silver, which is gas,” said attorney Hiram Lewis, who represents people sued by drilling companies over mineral rights.   Two of Lewis’s clients are in Wetzel County where there has been extensive gas drilling and multiple reports of water contamination.

Howard Clark said, “The arrogance of industry has led to the industry thumbing its nose at WV Code 22-7.”  Mr. Clark has wrangled with industry at his farm along the Monongalia- Wetzel county line in attempts to make the industry comply with basic sediment and erosion laws.  In an interview, Clark shared that the 25 acre drill site will have lost several million pounds of topsoil to erosion.

Other reports:

Marcellus Committee Hears Public Input

Citizens Demand Drilling Ban in WV, Forbes

Citizens push legislative committee for action on Marcellus rules, WVPB

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