WV Governor Promotes Drilling Under the Ohio River at a 20% Royalty for State

by Duane Nichols on August 26, 2014

Ohio River Islands -- National Wildlife Refuge

Ohio River in Marshall, Wetzel and Pleasants Counties Targeted in Proposal

From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, August 26, 2014

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin believes leasing several miles worth of mineral rights located beneath the Ohio River for Marcellus and Utica shale drilling for at least a 20 percent share of the royalties will provide the state a financial windfall without disturbing the environment.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources wants a driller to pay at least 20 percent of production royalties for extracting minerals beneath the Ohio River.

A legal notice indicates the Division of Natural Resources – which is an arm of the Department of Commerce – is seeking bids for drilling into the oil and natural gas producing formations underlying the Ohio River in Marshall, Wetzel and Pleasants counties. Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette is a member of Tomblin’s cabinet.

“The proposed development is in the best economic interests of the state and will not unreasonably disrupt use and enjoyment of the Ohio River or the division’s opportunities to develop other mineral interests in the area,” Tomblin stated in a letter to DNR Director Frank Jezioro.

Drilling is prevalent in Marshall, Wetzel and Pleasants counties, where firms may bid for the mineral rights by the September 25th application deadline. Officials will open the bids at 1 p.m. September 26th (Friday).

Tomblin’s letter states he wants a driller to proceed without deducting production costs from the state’s revenue. In many drilling contracts, the company is allowed to reduce payments to the property owner by making deductions for certain costs associated with getting wells online.

“The lessee shall be liable for royalty payments on mineral interests lost or wasted because of negligence or failure to comply with the lease or the law,” Tomblin added.

In addition to the 20 percent royalty, state officials are seeking a per-acre lease payment, as the procurement document states the contract will go to the highest bidder.

Any potential driller would likely reach the minerals by horizontal drilling, as the company could set up a rig about one mile from the river. Contractors can drill more than one mile deep before turning the bit horizontally to reach the oil and natural gas beneath the river.

NOTE: Drilling for oil & gas under the Ohio River, now being promoted by the Governor of West Virginia, is a flagrant act of disregard for the people, for the natural environment and for the lands along the River.   This is an idea that has not been explored with the people or the Legislature.  The federal government has not examined this question to see whether there will be impacts for other states and the natural environment.  One can assume that the oil and gas industry has walked into the Governor’s office and said, this is what we want to do!

< P.S. Let’s talk about earthquakes for a start!  Also, drilling and fracking above or near the Ohio River will result in hundreds of acres of disturbed land,  toxic chemical leaks, increased water pollution run-off, contaminated storm water, as well as significant air pollution from diesel trucks, pumps and/or compressors, gas leaks and flares.  The chances of fires, explosions, fish kills, worker injuries, and public health exposures are very real. >

Contact the Governor:  Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Office of the Governor, State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E.,  Charleston WV 25305

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