Friday, December 13, 2013

Will Pennsboro, WV Residents Let The Town Become One Giant Fracking Site?

Quaint Pennsboro, West Virginia (population 1,118) is a small town community of families and retirees in Ritchie County enjoying low cost housing and quiet living but all that is about to change if Antero has their way.

Antero is planning to horizontally drill under the entire city limits of Pennsboro if enough people will sign leases. The well pads (at least 3 acres each) will be outside of the town limits but Pennsboro occupies less than three square miles of land. The well pads will dwarf the sleepy town, bringing 24 hour noise, blinding light and truck traffic.

The though of easy money is tempting to residents of a town where the median household income is less than $28,000. However, mineral rights owners who live on their land only have to look at neighboring Doddridge County to see how nearby fracking activity lowers home values and raises health concerns. The easy money comes with a high cost; and once the lease is signed, it’s too late. Homes near fracking activity sit on the market; perceived problems with tainted water and the threat of explosions are enough to keep buyers away. Anyone who signs a lease and then decides living near a horizontal drilling site is not pleasant will have a difficult time finding a buyer for their home. Renters will find fracking activity causes rents to skyrocket as out-of-state workers move in.

Naturally, mineral owners who live out-of-state will sign, they have nothing to lose and they stand to gain a sizable check each month once production begins. Pennsboro residents who encourage others not to sign leases with Antero are waging an uphill battle but all is not lost. As of December 2013, there is no “forced pooling” in West Virginia. Forced pooling is when holdout mineral owners are forced to sign leases if leases have already been negotiated for a certain percentage of the land (sometimes as low as 25 percent) where a drilling company wants to extract Marcellus Shale gas. The drilling industry is lobbying WV lawmakers heavily to institute pooling.

Antero’s plan to drill under Pennsboro will force residents to decide if an influx of cash (for some residents and businesses) and a few new jobs is worth decreased property values, the industrialization of the landscape and high levels of truck traffic and noise in addition to the threat of exposure to combustible gases and toxic chemicals.