We are chuckling down here in Wetzel every time you run a story about "the gas guys come to Ohio County." Of course, we are understanding and realize that Ohio Countians are slowly learning the rest of the story.
The article this week about the rigs being out of sight was particularly humorous. Gas rigs are not ugly or hard to look at. In fact, the whole set-up is a testimony to human creativity and a lot more beneficial to society than the same old same old retailers at The Highlands. If you try to hide the pads in the woods the environmental impact is greater and you have once again divided our Appalachian hardwood forest and you will have to do some mountaintop removal. It makes real sense to specify in the leases exactly where the pads will be and not leave it to Chesapeake's discretion. Use existing flat areas with easy high quality access for minimal impact.
Over the past few months, Ohio County officials have been quoted saying, "Chesapeake is a clean and careful company." Chesapeake runs large ads touting their respect for our land i.e., "land is a sacred holding, a source of hard earned pride, and a lasting legacy that spans generations." The Wetzel County experience do not reflect that and any Ohio County officials who have not taken the local tour here have ignored due diligence.
If you control Chesapeake and make them operate in public view, they will behave. Call the PSC and ask how many tickets have been written in Wetzel. Call the sheriff and find out how many accidents and incidents there have been. Call the DOH or our representatives and ask them what it will cost the taxpayers to repair Wetzel roads. Call Chesapeake and ask them why $2.5 million in road repair lasted less than a year and why they don't fix, asphalt roads with asphalt. Ask them whose idea it was for a community picnic, a community panel, trash bins at wide spots, pilot vehicles for trucks and buses, staging areas and truck dispatching, and dust control. All these things came to pass because citizens screamed.
Remember the semi that got stuck in Wheeling twice? Having to look at rigs is painless. Getting the rigs in and out is the issue. Hours and hours of diesels idling in a county with bad air is an issue. Any substandard roads are an issue. The amount of activity at any given time is an issue. Illegal heavy loads on icy roads are an issue. Dust is an issue. Muddy creeks are an issue.
Success for Ohio County in the gas business will require close monitoring with much discussion and picture taking. Any gas activity on school lands should be used as a unique classroom.
May 18, 2010