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Letter to the Editor of the State Journal

By Steve Conlon to Dan Page on May 11, 2009

Dear Editor,  Horizontal drilling for natural gas arrived in our northern area of Wetzel County about 3 years ago. Chesapeake has the largest presence and refers to this as their "sexiest play in WV."  This translates into significant local impact and in our case , soft asphalt roads with little to no base have deteriorated to a lower quality than CHK  well roads. My business is next to the local fire department. Pre CHK they went on 40 runs/year. To date, they have gone on 40 runs in 2009 , mostly gas well related. Check out the website of the Wetzel County Action Group , WCAG, for great pictures of numerous vehicular incidents on our windy narrow roads.

   This situation has prompted some of us to study horizontal gas extraction, CHK Energy , and numerous state agencies. For some reason, local citizens are having to push WVDOH, CHK and our politicians to remedy at least $2.5 million in road damages. Agreements have been reached for $1.5 million in repairs. Unfortunately , multiple well permits were issued without allowing for monies for road impact. . THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. No state agency has been proactive . CHK was up front when they said ,"we are coming in hot and heavy ."  Our prosecuting attorney has fielded numerous complaints and says ,"these people aren't crying wolf".

    Believe me, I have plenty to keep me busy. It's certainly a fascinating subject and now I know a lot about natural gas, Aubrey McClendon, Marcellus Shale , WVDOH, asphalt  and axle loads. I could probably go a round or two with Rob Cornelius and I'd love to whip up on Stirewalt. I have come to immensely appreciate natural gas. I coined the phrase, "If coal is clean and has friends ,then natural gas is pristine and has lovers. It's a no-brainer that we should dramatically increase our use of it. Last weeks' SJ discussed gas powered vehicles. This is also a no-brainer. However, no one has mentioned that there are 750,000 residences in WV and only half are served with natural gas. I don't know about gas delivery for commercial establishments, but I would bet they are underserved also. I do know poultry farmers going broke using propane. Natural gas would improve their situation and imagine if 75% of households could access to  natural gas.

   If CHK really wants to do us a "world of good" and be "the champion of natural gas", they could be a catalyst in the development of residential gas delivery. Vehicular fueling then becomes simple . CHK is a generous corporation and tries to be a good neighbor. It took me six months to convince them that the best way to win friends is to be friendly and open . I recommended a local picnic celebrating CHK, Marcellus Shale and those locals who have made it happen. It will happen in June ,I'm told.    

Hopefully, state agencies and employees will wake up and realize that horizontal drilling is a new category requiring different oversight, planning and infrastructure maintenance. If handled correctly ,it is truly a blessing that we have gas under us. If the state doesn't pick up the ball, citizens will need to listen when CHK says they are moving in. It's like throwing a another rooster into the chicken yard. It takes a little bit for things to settle down.