I attended the public hearing on Marcellus drilling at Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg. Attendance was at full capacity. Some people had to stand in the aisle. Because of the high volume of speakers, only a minute and a half was allowed for each participant.
One of the early speakers from the audience was Corky DeMarco. He asked, "How many people here work in the gas industry?" Approximately, 70-plus percent of the audience stood up.
Gas employee after employee commandeered the microphone. Everything from "I like my job" or "the old lady had tears in her eyes when we gave her a large check" to "West Virginia's and North Dakota's governments would not be in the black if it wasn't for the gas industry" and predictably "there's already too many regulations." Each person from the gas industry had a scripted note to read and were well prepared for public speaking. It had the appearance of being well orchestrated by industry management.
Because of the sheer volume of speakers, there wasn't enough air time to express some concerns about Marcellus Shale gas drilling to the Legislature's Select Committee, until around 10 p.m. when most of the gas company employees had left the building.
Drilling for gas has been around for a hundred years and is going to continue for hundreds of years. Marcellus Slick Water Fracking is a new technology. As with any prototype, there will be glitches. There will be problems, break-downs and things that just don't work quite right. All new technology has a learning curve.
Marcellus fracking has become so pervasive so quickly. It is overwhelmingly present all over the country. Because this new manner of drilling is not well documented and hence, residents are not being protected, new laws are needed.
Surface owner rights, water, soil and air quality protection, road usage, proper disposal of pit and drilling wastes, further studies of fracking chemicals and emergency plans for spills and air contamination, all need to be addressed.
Recently a win/win proposal for both sides of the fence has been proposed by the EPA. Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions from several types of processes and equipment used in gas extraction can be reduced by 95 percent using new technologies that are currently in use by several gas companies.
These new modified Marcellus wells capture natural gas (mostly methane) that escapes into the air, is processed and made available for sale. It is a highly cost effective regulation for the gas industry and greatly reduces toxic emissions, providing health benefits for the residents.
The three meetings are now over and it is time for more dialogue by West Virginia's citizens. Please contact your local officials and ask them to support fair regulations that will protect us all here in West Virginia
My thanks to all five House of Delegate representatives for listening to the public. Although the gas companies were pushing their agenda by staging overflowing masses of people to monopolize the podium, in the end our concerns were heard.