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Commission approves natural gas resolution

July 23, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer (wscott@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - A resolution encouraging the development of industries around the current natural gas drilling boom was among issues discussed by the Brooke County Commission on July 12.

The commission approved a resolution calling for the county commissions of Brooke, Hancock, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler to work together to attract and secure the investments related to the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

The Marcellus shale is an underground geological region extending from New York to Tennessee and said to contain trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. The Utica shale is a few thousand feet below the Marcellus and about twice as large but with unknown potential.

County commissioners in the Northern Panhandle hope to draw one or more cracking plants to the area. The plants convert ethane, a byproduct of the purification of ethelyne, is converted to ethelyene, a material used in the production of plastics and other chemicals.

Some industry leaders believe the ready availability of ethane could help to revive the American plastics industry.

The county commissioners hope it will bring long-term economic benefits beyond the leasing of many properties for drilling currently occurring through the creation of jobs.

They said a cracking plant could employ 200 to 300 people while creating thousands of other jobs through support services.

"It's the county commissioners acting in a united effort to bring jobs to the Northern Panhandle," Kazienko said.

He, Hancock County Commissioner Dan Greathouse and other county commission presidents from the Northern Panhandle announced support for the resolution at a press conference at West Virginia Northern Community College's Wheeling campus Tuesday.

Wellsburg resident Wayne Buxton asked if the resolution would leave the commission liable if environmental issues arise.

Kazienko said the commission has maintained that natural gas drilling should be done properly, to prevent health risks or safety hazards to the public.

Concerns about the risk of natural gas drilling contaminating groundwater leading to streams and wells has led the cities of Wellsburg and Morgantown and others to ban drilling.

Natural gas drillers use a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to release natural gas from the shale. It involves injecting a solution comprised of 95 percent sand and water and 5 percent various chemicals, some of them toxic, into the rock.

Industry leaders say the process occurs thousands of feet below groundwater levels and several layers of metal and concrete separate fluid in the gas wells from the surrounding earth.

A study by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 found no proven cases of water being contaminated by hydraulic fracturing. But the EPA announced last year it would revisit the matter, investigating claims of water pollution in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Louisiana.

In other business:

The commission heard from Judy Anderson and other residents of Coss Lane who said a local man is establishing a kennel there in violation of conditions set by their homeowners association.

Anderson, who presented a petition signed by 35 residents, said they are concerned about the dogs being noisy, runoff from his property and the impact on their property values.

Kazienko said the commission consulted Brooke County Prosecutor David B. Cross, who advised the commission doesn't have the authority to intervene and the group may have to resolve the matter through legal action.

In related business, Buxton, who is a member of Animal Advocates- Brooke County, said he's received complaints of barking dogs at the county's animal shelter being heard by residents in the 49 Hill area of Beech Bottom.

Kazienko said the commission may need to establish a sound barrier near the shelter, and he will investigate the problem.

County Commissioner Norma Tarr said something needs to be done about a dilapidated structure and tall grass on property near Harmon Creek in Colliers acquired by the county through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's buyout program.

Through the program, FEMA provides money for property owners to relocate from flood-prone areas. Their land becomes the property of the counties or cities where they're located, with the condition no structures may be built on them.

Tarr said the commission can't complain of dilapidated structures in the county if it takes no action to address its own.

Kazienko said he will look into the matter.

The commission noted the terms of four members of the Brooke County Museum board have expired. It has agreed to accept letters of interest in the seats from the members, who may be reappointed, or any resident.

The county's building commission, which was formed to pursue improvements to buildings owned by the county, also has a vacancy.

Letters of interest should be sent to Brooke County Clerk Sylvia Benzo at the county courthouse.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

 
 

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