Wetzel County Residents Say Marcellus Gas Wells Cause Air Pollution Problems

by Duane Nichols on May 21, 2011

Some residents of Wetzel County are asking the state to regulate the fumes coming off certain natural gas drilling sites into the Marcellus shale. Bill Hughes with the Wetzel County Action Group says the Division of Air Quality places some limits on emissions from compressor stations, but not enough and none on the wells that feed these stations. He says the wells can release so much pollution that it can temporarily run people out of their houses, as it did one young boy and his mother.

“Her son woke her up and, ‘Mommy, it smells in here. Something smells, mommy.’ And she got up and realized, well, God, the whole house was just filled with fumes that were coming off the well the next hilltop over.” Hughes says if all drillers were required to use the best of existing standard technologies, it would be fair and the problems would be greatly reduced. And he says the companies could make up a good part of the cost by selling the fumes that don’t leak away. “The money is there to do it right, not release methane into the air, have vapor recovery units on all their condensate tanks, many many other things. But if they do that in the long run it’s better for all of us.”

Mr. Hughes’ appeal (10-3-AQB) was heard by the Air Quality Board on Thursday (May 19, 2011) at the WV-DEP headquarters in Charleston. Mr. Hughes was represented by Joe Osborne of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) of Pittsburgh.  He was opposed by two lawyers from the WV-DEP and three or more lawyers for the Appalachia Midstream Services, an affiliated company of Chesapeake Energy.  This latter company has already constructed the two compressor stations in question, the Pleasants and Miller Stations that are now operating in the Victory gas well field of Marshall and Wetzel counties.

This operating company requested a “directed verdict” after the first of two scheduled days of hearings, which was granted by the Air Quality Board.  This decision ended the hearing in favor of Appalachian Midstream Services.  The AQB said that insufficient evidence had been presented to support a claim that the new compressors stations and/or the wells feeding them were in fact “contiguous or adjacent”, as defined by the legal definitions of these terms under the Clean Air Act in spite of existing pipelines interconnecting them. Mr. Hughes will have 30 days after the AQB decision is posted to appeal this case, if he so chooses, to the Kanawha County Circuit Court (and ultimately to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals).

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: