Drilling Protesters Spur City Council and County Commission to Action

by Dee Fulton on May 19, 2011

Concerned citizens showed up in force at the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening in Morgantown, WV.   About 20 people addressed the council members with concerns regarding a permitted Marcellus shale well near the Monongahela River within 3,000 feet of a public water intake that serves 100,000 people.   Many inquired about getting an injunction to stop the drilling of the wells permitted to Northeast Natural Energy, a West Virginia company.   The council responded with a letter to Randy Huffman, the Secretary of the WVDEP, supporting the permit modifications proposed by the Morgantown Utility Board.  The letter was faxed on Wednesday the 18th.  The WVDEP negotiated with Northeast and a modified permit which complies with the MUB requests is expected to be completed today.  Drilling can be expected to start as soon as the permit is issued as modified.

Wednesday morning, an estimated 120 concerned citizens assembled at the Courthouse Square in downtown Morgantown to protest the  controversial well permit.   Delegates Barbara Fleischauer and Charlene Marshall addressed the crowd to discuss their work on the issue of regulation of hydraulic fracturing.   Several citizens addressed the crowd, sharing their concerns about various aspects of hydraulic fracturing including the impact of industrialization on West Virginia, water contamination, air pollution, lack of regulation and lack of funding for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.  Attorney Hiram Lewis, who represents clients with water contamination problems in Wetzel County, told that water is being contaminated with acrylonitrile, a toxic substance that is not being checked by testing.  He also observed that the concrete well casings may be incapable of withstanding the forces of fracking and may crack.  He stated that there is no proof that well casings can withstand more than 7,000 psi and that frack pressures exceed 10,000 psi.

As the protest demonstration was going on in the square outside the courthouse, inside the courthouse the County Commissioners were meeting.  Duane Nichols, representing the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition, presented a position statement which expressed opposition to hydraulic fracturing in the Mon River Valley, noting in particular  dangerous threats to air quality.  ”The two Marcellus wells recently sited at or near the Morgantown Industrial Park are too close to the other facilities of the Industrial Park, too close to the Skyview Elementary School, too close to the Westwood Middle School, too close to the County Athletic Field between these schools, and too close to the City of Morgantown.”   Marc Glass is a certified soil remediation specialist who lives near the controversial drilling sites.  He described the Superfund site currently within the Morgantown Industrial Park where the wells are planned and the  proximity of a hazardous waste dump, both of significant concern if these come into contact with drilling fluids.  Glass also described the activities of the EPA and the Department of Energy toward developing best practices for drilling operations.

The three Commissioners agreed that that action at the state level is needed.  They agreed to draft a letter to the governor to call for a Special Session to create law for hydraulic fracking and pointing out that an untenable situation exists in West Virginia due to risks and uncertainties involved in Marcellus gas projects.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Laura Hitt May 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Thank you for posting this update. Is *shocking* to me that there is no regulation in this state regarding the close proximity of this environmental hazard to a significantly sized population. Is unconscionable.

From an outraged and very concerned citizen


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