Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pennsboro City Council Meeting discusses allowing fracking and gas drilling to take place under the town

Report on City Council Meeting at Pennsboro, Ritchie County, WV

Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Conservationist & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

NOTE: Pennsboro with a population of about 1200 people and less than 3 square miles in area is located near US Route 50 between Clarksburg and Parkersburg, in Ritchie County just a few miles from both Doddridge and Tyler Counties.

A friend in the area sent me an email saying there would be a meeting of the Pennsboro City Council the 16th of September to consider allowing drilling to take place under the town. This is news for two reasons. One, most towns don’t have any such regulation, and second, it is always interesting to see how the industry is selling drilling in any particular time and place.

The Council met at 7:00 with three of the five present and began to take care of small matters. The other two showed up before Antero made its presentation over half an hour later. There were fifteen chairs in the chamber, with more people standing in the anteroom.

The lead presenter, a man by the name of Ellis, began by telling the council and listeners that Antero Resources had 280 employees and a million dollar monthly payroll. It was founded in 2002 and has headquarters in Denver. They have maintained offices in Ellenboro, Mt. Clare (located at Willow Beach) and Marietta, Ohio, but plan to consolidate at new offices in Bridgeport.

Last year they invested a billion dollars and expect to invest more this year. (Author’s note: I believe I've heard Antero has “hedged” their production at a little above production costs. That is, they sold it to an investor, who will benefit if the price of gas goes up and loose if it goes down. So, their drilling is not constrained by the gas oversupply.) Presently they have over 400,000 acres under lease, it was said.

As the presentation progressed there was a video and several other people to make contributions. Antero is the most active driller in WV. They plan to use water lines parallel to the gas lines to avoid so much truck traffic. The three pads to be used, which are already established will “drain” 1700 acres, they say. (The reader should keep in mind the less than 10% recovery rate typical of shale sells. Over 90% is left in the ground.)

The three pads in place are to be the origin of the laterals (reading between the lines here, drilling under Pennsboro was planned some time ago). These pads are over 2000 feet from the town limits and Anterio has had great success with long horizontal laterals needed. Most of the area around the town is leased, it is simply a matter of leasing lots in town.

Several people in the crowd began to ask politely hostile questions as the presentation went on. A man who appeared to be Mr. Ellis’ boss, who was very familiar with the Council when he came in, sat off behind the Council table. When things began to get difficult he stood up and said, “We need a bigger forum for this.” He asked where a larger group meeting could be held, and several suggestions were offered. As the presentation was cut off, the big boss reminded the people in the room at some length, “We are regulated by the State and Federal Government…”

All the regulating agencies were listed in the video mentioned above, too. This appears in his mind to lend some moral authority in the eyes of the drillers, in addition to the simple fact of the power it gives to use the State apparatus to do what they do.