Gas Drilling OK’d Near City
Council, MUB express worries about air, water
Morgantown Dominion Post
5 May 2011
By David Beard
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved
permits for two Marcellus gas wells in the Morgantown Industrial Park.
Site preparation has begun, said Michael John, president of Northeast
Natural Energy, the Charleston-based company that will do the drilling.
Some officials and watershed advocates are concerned that the site sits
upstream from Morgantown Utility Board’s drinking water treatment plant
intake. They want the DEP to craft a more open permitting process
incorporating public comment.
Other officials are confident the job will be done right. John said his
company is committed to sound practices that benefit the economy and
preserve the environment.
Morgantown Industrial Park is along the Monongahela River, outside
The well pad, along with the mineral rights, is owned by Enrout
Properties LLC. Its principals are Glenn, Kevin and Michael Adrian and
Michael Bland, according to secretary of state records. Kevin Adrian
said the pad will occupy 4-5 acres. Maps accompanying the permit show
it situated just southwest of the WVU laundry facility.
These are not the first gas wells at the park. Conventional vertical
wells already operate there.
John said the two permits — issued March 10 and March 23 — allow the
company to drill two wells on the pad — MIP No. 4H and No. 6H. If
various factors pan out — including the wells’ productivity and
pipeline capacity — the company may drill four more on the same pad.
Morgantown City Councilman Don Spencer spoke about the wells at
Tuesday’s council meeting and repeated his concerns Wednesday to The
He didn’t know then what company was involved, but said, “Whichever
company it is, it is a matter of concern. ... Wells can be highly
invasive installations for anything that surrounds them.”
He mentioned potential air pollution from well blowoffs, water
contamination from drainage, and spills and impoundments.
He would like to see the DEP modify its permitting process to provide
public notice of permit applications, and time for public hearings and
“This is a perfect example of why,” he said.
On behalf of the council, he asked City Manager Terrence Moore to
contact the DEP, learn what’s going on and express the city’s concerns.
Moore said the city’s position was expressed April 5, when Council
passed a resolution urging a special legislative session to draft
Marcellus drilling regulations. The city is awaiting word regarding
Monongalia County Commission President Asel Kennedy said he is aware of
the drilling plans. “If they follow best management practices, there
shouldn’t be a problem. I think you can drill for shale gas and not
damage the environment.”
The County Commission approved the Morgantown Industrial Park Tax
Increment Financing District in 2008. It uses property tax revenues to
pay for bonds to fund development. Adrian said the money is used for
roads and other infrastructure in the park, and not for private
Water interests react
Barry Pallay, co-chair of the WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds
Compact and vice president of the Upper Monongahela River Association,
echoed Spencer’s concerns.
The wells have received little public fanfare. “This points out the
need for a DEP strategy for permitting oil and gas and Marcellus
wells,” he said.
MUB General Manager Tim Ball said he’s also concerned about the wells’
location, but was pleased that Northeast reached out to MUB to let it
know about its plans.
“That was a sign of good faith on their part,” he said. Northeast
pledged to listen to and address their concerns and requests for
MUB has done three things regarding the wells, Ball said.
One began in January, and solidified in March after the Legislature
failed to pass Marcellus regulation. Ball formed a technical advisory
group to deal with any potential threat to MUB’s watershed. Group
members are Ball; Downstream Strategies President Evan Hansen; Dr. Paul
Ziemkiewicz, director of the WVU’s Water Research Institute; and
Stephanie Timmermeyer, a former DEP secretary and now director of
regulatory affairs, Eastern Division, Chesapeake Energy.
The second became moot when he learned the permits were granted. It
was, to any extent possible, to have a say in the permitting process.
Barring that, the third is to work directly with Northeast to ensure
all possible precautions.
“We won’t attempt to stop it,” Ball said, “just work to make sure it’s
done in the best way possible.”
Northeast explains plans
John said that once drilling begins, each well will take about a
month to finish. Given possible weather delays, he didn’t have a
precise timeline for the work. Work is going on and “we’re still pretty
much on schedule.”
He’s aware of the various concerns, he said.
“As an industry, we have to go about this in a responsible way. I’m
very confidant that this is going to happen,” he said. He’s a West
Virginia native who loves his home state.
“We are very diligent in how we conduct our operations. We will do
everything that needs to be done to protect our environment. ... We
can’t talk about the product until we talk about our commitment to
doing things right and protecting the environment.”
Given that commitment, he’s a big booster for natural gas, he said.
“It’s a very abundant resource that’s right in our backyard, that’s a
cleanburning fuel that can mean a lot to this country.”
John said Northeast also has plans — when the permitting is done — to
drill two other wells on another pad in the area, but he could not
provide information on them at this time.