Friday, January 28, 2011

Marcellus Shale - The Industrialization of Rural West Virginia

At a joint committee meeting of the WV House Judiciary and Finance Committees yesterday afternoon, legislators heard about recent developments regarding drilling operations for the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia.

Marcellus Shale is a vast resource. It's the second largest field of gas -- in the WORLD. It is twice the size of the gas fields in Saudi Arabia.

Drilling operations from across the country are descending on West Virginia to access these rich gas deposits that were previously unattainable using traditional drilling techniques. The impacts are significant and policymakers are struggling to keep up with advancements in technology. In particular, the process of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is causing widespread concern due to its environmental impact.

The influx of drilling operations is essentially the industrialization of rural West Virginia. While the Marcellus Shale presents tremendous opportunities - there are also many issues that need to be addressed such as water quality, impact on roads, property owners rights, worker safety, etc.

Dave McMahon, an attorney who represents WV surface property owners, has prepared a very informative slide show comparing the new Marcellus Shale drilling operations to traditional drilling, which is familiar to many West Virginians.

The DEP is proposing legislation that would begin to mitigate the impact of drilling operations that are beyond the reach of current regulations. It is a good start to impose higher fees so the DEP can hire additional inspectors.

However, West Virginia probably should do more to ensure that all West Virginians benefit as this resource is extracted. Some have recommended looking at Alaska as an example of how a state's citizens are given a share in the natural resources of its state. It's an idea that is worthy of consideration, but must be done expeditiously.

Out of state drillers are arriving every day. We welcome them here, but hope that they will tread softly on our beloved state. Our children deserve clean water, healthy forests, and safe roads. Let's make sure they aren't lost in the name of "economic development."

Link to Marcellus Shale Slideshow.

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