Marcellus at Your Door
Doddridge County Action Group Formed to Advocate for Citizens
By now, most people in the county are starting to realize that this ain't just your typical gas drilling boom going on here that's anything at all like all the boom periods you've seen come and go in this county over the decades. This is different.
Marcellus shale drilling is nothing at all like the "conventional" vertical well drilling we are used to. Not, when you consider the huge amount of land required for Marcellus well pads, the enormous numbers of trucks on our roads, the amount of fresh water usage per drilled well (takes about 4-6 million gallons of water to frack a single Marcellus well.) And then consider the impact on the environment (chemicals that are far more toxic and are known carcinogens being injected into these Marcellus wells to frack them and break up the shale thousands of feet below.) Research is out there that shows that, inevitably, these well casings will become compromised, and/or other nearby old conventional wells disturbed by the fracking will leech out their chemicals into the ground water.
In addition there are work place hazards to consider (silica dust exposure, fracking fluid, air quality issues) as well as risk of well water contamination, noise and air pollution from compressor stations, wells venting, and general quality of life issues and even declining property values for those people living around well sites. The list can go on and on, but you get the point.
One only needs to drive through the many areas in the county where drilling is active to get a pretty good picture of what we are in store for in the next 5-10 years. Several hundred permits already secured by the industry for our area. We are seeing current activity on Arnold's Creek Road area (multiple drilling projects) Pike's Fork off RT 23, Brushy Fork Road area in New Milton (Erwin Valley multiple well pads) and Brushy Fork compressor station and many more wells down that end near Meathouse Fork. Central Station (extraction plant) Morgan's Run & RT 50 (Marcellus wells, a cryogenic plant, compressor station, and staging area for shipping out the wet gas.) County folk ain't seen nothing yet!
Doddridge, Ritchie, and Harrison counties are at the heart of the Marcellus shale region. The wet gas under us is prime pickin's for an industry which is exempt from so many federal EPA regulations.
Many county residents have concerns and unanswered questions. Have you, or a neighbor, had difficulty getting a drilling company to return your phone calls? Do you feel you are getting the "run around" and perhaps misinformation when a land man comes to your door to either negotiate for a pipeline right-of-way, or talk about a proposed well site on your land?
Have you ever made phone calls to the drilling company, or sent a certified letter with signed receipt returned to you, but were never successful in getting the drilling company to call you back?
Have you ever had anyone working for the industry to tell you "well if you don't sign, we can take it by eminent domain"? (They CANNOT because in most all cases, the right-of-way they seek is for a "collection pipeline" meaning they are transporting gas to sell for their own private profit, so not subject to "eminent domain" privileges.)
Do you worry that the pipeline agreement you signed may have turned out to have "given away the farm" and did you discover that what you thought you signed ....based on what you were told by the company is not what is actually happening to your land?
Have you been almost run off the road or into a ditch by a tanker truck or other construction vehicle? Do you have traffic safety concerns as result of the significant increase in drilling related traffic?
Are you living in an area where there are noticeable chemical or methane smells, and venting into the air around your home as result of drilling operations? Did you know that the WV DEP does NOT monitor air quality from these compressor stations and Marcellus wells? No monitoring program in place to ensure that the emissions do not exceed federal EPA limits. Also, there is currently no mapping process at the WV DEP to monitor where all the pipelines are going and the identified shut-off valves for local emergency organizations should there be a pipeline explosion or leak.
These are but a few of the many challenges and concerns that county residents face as result of this current Marcellus drilling boom. Most concerned citizens don't know where to start to reach out for help with their own personal situations and concerns or questions about drilling which may be impacting them.
The industry is pumping BILLIONS in profits from under our WV lands. People and their farms are the sacrificial lambs for the industry and our WV legislature has done little to remedy and to protect the people who own land and reside in WV. (80% of the minerals are owned by out-of-state people and companies) Is it any wonder they are wooed into leasing their minerals to the industry, when most mineral owners, being out-of-state, haven't a clue what is really going on at "ground zero" because they don't live here?
WV is the second richest state in natural resources in the nation. Coal, lumber, oil, and gas. Yet, as a state, we are just about at the bottom of the list as far as a having a population with one of the lowest standards of living, economic opportunity, environmental wellness, education, health and wellness, and other quality of life issues.
Why is that? Will WV still be a welfare state when this current Marcellus drilling frenzy subsides and the temporary jobs given to our WV folk, such as driving a water truck or working on a well site is no longer in demand? Where are all these billions in drilling profits going anyway? How much is staying in the state to improve things for the WV people?
Who will advocate for the residents in Doddridge County? In Wetzel County, WV, (they are about 5 years ahead of us in the Marcellus Drilling boom) citizens formed an advocacy group known as The Wetzel County Action Group. It was made up of volunteer citizens who were concerned about drilling impacts in their communities. They were able to make some positive changes by bringing some of these challenges and adverse impacts into the proper hands of the regulatory agencies, the WVDEP, and other organizations.
See article links below to see examples of how grass roots citizen advocacy can work to protect a community.
*** The Blake Falls Water Fall in Wetzel County impacted by Chesapeake Energy's drilling:
http://www.marcellus-shale.us/Blake-Run-Falls.htm (see the before picture of waterfall, the after picture where Chesapeake took out the stream and turned it into a well road, and the restoration picture after Wetzel County Action Group got involved and brought it to the attention of the EPA which lead to criminal charges and guilty plea by Chesapeake Energy (see links below for report.)
*** In southern WV, EQT was recently fined $200,000 in punitive damages and $700,000 in compensatory damages as result of a cemetery in a rural black coal community being desecrated when tombstones were plowed under by excavation for a gas drilling related project in Logan County. According to the articles, "the operator shoved aside head stones and metal markers while building a road to a drilling site" even after being warned that the cemetery was there and clearly visible.
See article links: http://wvgazette.com/News/201210170122 and
***In Harrison County, in 2011 seven different Antero drill sites were cited with Federal EPA Compliance Orders for violations to the Clean Water Act, involving illegal discharges and backfill into streams and the placement of the well pads on wetlands.
See link to EPA region 3 site where you can find a list of these compliance orders: http://www.epa.gov/region3/marcellus_shale/ (scroll down to the "site construction" heading where you can read the individual violations for these and many other drill sites.)
Several residents in that community of Cherry Camp Road and Indian Run Road, are currently involved in litigation against the company for alleged drinking well water contamination. At least one resident has a "water buffalo" tank that was installed by the company, removing her from her home's water well after dangerously high levels of arsenic was discovered in her well water.
Again, in many cases, these things are brought to light by citizen advocates.
Are our communities considered collateral damage?
Remember folks, drilling done right and carefully regulated will create MORE local WV jobs, not less. And if people advocate for themselves and their communities, it will help put MORE back into the communities, not continue to take away. Don't sit back and watch your rural community and your way of life become collateral damage. You ain't seen nothing yet of what's to come over the next several years.
If you are concerned about what's happening in our county, contact the Doddridge County Action Group. 304 804-3224 email@example.com