Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fracking Act introduced

The latest bulletin from our allies at the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization.

There has been a lot of interesting oil and gas related news over the past two weeks. Read on for more on the introduction of the “Hydraulic Fracturing and Horizontal Drilling Gas Act,” and other topics.

Chesapeake CEO Insults West Virginians

On January 20, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon was the the featured speaker at the Independent Oil and Gas Association's winter meeting and annual legislative gala in Charleston. In his speech, McClendon was critical of West Virginia's court system and a 2007 multi-million-dollar jury verdict against Chesapeake that was upheld by the West Virginia Supreme Court. Upholding the verdict meant the company had to pay $405 million in royalties and punitive damages to landowners who were cheated on their royalty payments.

According to the Charleston Gazette, McClendon displayed a PowerPoint slide that listed the reasons why Chesapeake "likes" West Virginia. "There was a day I loved West Virginia," he said, "before I had an encounter with your court system."

McClendon claimed that the Roane County verdict cost the company "for something I didn't do."
And if McClendon's shot at our court system wasn't bad enough, he went on to insult the intelligence of West Virginians and the residents of two other states who want his company to act responsibly.

WVU Releases Industry Funded Study on Marcellus Shale Development

McClendon's insults were followed by last week's release of an industry funded study on the economic benefits of Marcellus Shale development in West Virginia. As you would expect from an industry-funded study, there is no mention of any negative impacts on our land, water, air, infrastructure, communities and overall quality of life. We have not had a chance to read the full report, however it is disappointing that a study was not done previously without funding from the oil and gas industry. Our state government and universities should be out in front on this issue.

Instead we wait until after things have happened and we get industry funding to do studies. We hope this does not lead to the same mistakes we made with coal, where we did not reap the financial benefits and still got left with the short and long term environmental damage.

In response to the study the Charleston Gazette ran an editorial referencing our slide show on the "Industrialization of Rural West Virginia," noting our (and others) concerns about this development and stressing the need to impose "strict controls" on the industry in order to "minimize unwanted effects." The release of the report was no doubt timed to deter legislators from supporting a much needed overhaul of the state's oil and gas laws.

“Hydraulic Fracturing and Horizontal Drilling Gas Act” Introduced

Now for the good news. Last week also saw the introduction of the "Hydraulic Fracturing and Horizontal Drilling Act" in both the House (HB 2878) and Senate (SB 258). The bill, which was prepared by legislative staff for an interim study committee, is one of two comprehensive bills regulating Marcellus Shale development that will be before the legislature this session. A second bill prepared by the WV Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has yet to be introduced. Both bills are long and legally and technically complex.

Both HB 2878 and SB 258 have been referred to the Judiciary and Finance Committees in their respective houses. On Thursday, members of the House Judiciary and Finance Committees gathered for what is likely to be the first of several presentations on Marcellus Shale drilling.

Spill Not Reported and Not Cleaned Up; No Answers for the Surface Owners

This blog post by Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) documenting what happened to Taylor County farmers Tina and Spencer Wooddell is just one example of why we need legislation to regulate Marcellus Shale drilling and protect the people and resources of the state.

Many of you have your own horror stories. Contact your legislators and tell them about what happened to you. Tell them what you think needs to be done to address problems related to both Marcellus Shale and conventional drilling.

Membership Renewal Thank You

Finally, thank you to everyone who recently renewed their WV-SORO membership. The response to our membership renewal request has been overwhelming. In addition to advancing the rights of surface owners in their struggle for fair treatment and just compensation when minerals are developed on their land, we are also supporting efforts to protect our water resources from Marcellus Shale development.

Your continued support will enable us to work towards improving and strengthening the proposals currently before the legislature and to fight for their passage.

In addition to our advocacy work, we will continue to keep you informed through our newsletter and e-mail updates, and to add new resources to the SORO website.

If you've been putting off renewing your membership, please do so now so that we can continue to educate landowners about their rights and keep up the fight for justice in West Virginia’s oil and gas fields.

Please send your membership dues to:

WV-SORO, 1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, WV 25311

As always, feel free to contact us with any of your questions or concerns. Thank you!

-- Julie Archer
WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie StreetCharleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891(304) 346-8981 FAX

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