MUB Concerned About Drilling

Sends letters to energy company and state office

Morgantown Dominion Post
16 May 2011
By David Beard

The Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) has sent two letters to the state Office of Oil and Gas detailing concerns about Northeast Natural Energy’s two Marcellus wells in Morgantown Industrial Park.

Because the wells sit within sight of MUB’s public drinking water treatment plant, MUB General Manager Tim Ball is asking to state to require more safeguards beyond those already covered in the permits.

In the first letter, dated May 10, Ball notes that the well pad is about 3,000 feet from the water intake “as the crow flies,” and any substances discharged from the site into a stream or drain pipe will enter the Monongahela River about 1,500 feet from the intake.

“We were extremely disappointed and frustrated to learn that the subject permits were issued without providing MUB an opportunity to comment and to have input on the requirements to be included in the permit,” Ball wrote.

Ball said he does not want the permits revoked and is not criticizing the property and mineral owner, Enrout Properties LLC, or the drilling company. Both have pledged their complete cooperation in protecting the water supply.

In the second letter, dated May 12, Ball lists the additional safeguards he would liked to see required in the form of a permit addendum, including:

Ball notes that drilling is proposed to begin today. He asks for the state to respond promptly, that drilling not begin until the spill containment measures are in place, and that no other phase of work begin until all the safeguards are in place.

“We simply want to ensure that the safety of our raw water supply is protected, and that the permits adequately address this need,” he wrote.

Ball could not be reached Saturday for comment. Enrout co-owner Kevin Adrian declined comment, saying it’s a matter between MUB and Northeast.

Northeast President Michael John said he was aware of the letters and would review them. He said he expected to be talking to Ball soon. He reiterated his pledge to be as helpful as possible. He preferred not to comment on the letters themselves at this time.

Barry Pallay and Duane Nichols, co-chairs of the WV/PA Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact, had previously drafted a letter to the DEP expressing their concerns about water and air quality and making several requests.

Asked about the MUB letters Saturday, Pallay said the compact supports MUB’s concern that these measure be completed before drilling begins.

Pallay said the compact spoke with DEP Secretary Randy Huffman at the end of last week regarding its letter, and Huffman said he would review the matters they brought to his attention. “We were pleased he gave us an opportunity to share those things.”

DEP offices were closed Saturday and Huffman could not be reached for comment.

Pallay said the compact has additional concerns and requests, beyond what MUB is seeking, for the Morgantown Industrial park wells.

“We would hope the DEP would provide a written copy of every inspection visit,” Pallay said. They also want an inspector to be on site during critical portions of the drilling and fracking process — such as cementing of the bore hole and pressure testing of the casings.

They want the DEP to require that the bore-hole cement — which places a protective barrier between the casings and the earth or water — cures for 24 hours and that the cement is tested and certified by an independent lab.

Pallay said the compact would like the DEP to review any other permit applications not yet approved for their impact on public safety and health.

It also wants the DEP to review a recent Duke University study that indicates aquifers close to Marcellus wells in parts of Pennsylvania and New York have much higher levels of methane than those outside Marcellus areas. The compact hopes the DEP will consider what that means to West Virginia and share its review and possible responses with the public.