Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marcellus: Pain in the Gas

Are we on the fast track to Titusville, Pennsylvania, circa 1860 and the beginning of the unfettered oil boom, or will the heat generated by Marcellus shale create enough light to bring Hampshire Countians out of the dark to pull together?

The U.S. Department of Energy predicts there will be over 20,000 Marcellus gas wells in West Virginia by 2020. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated there are over 150,000 oil and gas wells now in West Virginia. Texas is the only state with more. West Virginia’s pipeline system totals more miles than all of West Virginia’s roads. The potential for irreversible environmental damage is huge. James Martin at the West Virginia Office of Oil and Gas said the 18 inspectors at his agency do not regulate drilling; they only do site management (i.e., silt runoff) and make sure drilling sites are properly graded. The West Virginia Environmental Protection Agency only has 12 inspectors. That’s a total of 30 inspectors to monitor 150,000 wells and thousands of miles of pipeline. That’s an environmental disaster in progress.

With the potential of 20,000 more wells on the horizon and the infrastructure to transport billions more cubic feet of natural gas, we must educate ourselves and the public, become proactive, and demand that the politicians have the environment’s best interest at heart. This includes local politicians and the local media (which has a controversy phobia). The gas industry will try to beat the clock out on regulations. They only see Hampshire County as a way to expand their profit margins. They don't live here. This shouldn't be about left, right, or center – it should be about the center of the universe: our home, Hampshire County.

Next time: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about Marcellus.

--Jim Dodgins

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