"A peaceful evening is getting in the car and driving away from this place," Larry Barr of Mobley solemnly stated as he stared at the huge drilling rig located just behind his house.
Barr is just one of many Mobley-area residents whose life has drastically changed in the past few years due to the Marcellus Shale drilling activity that has unarguably boomed in Wetzel County.
Barr stated the noise that accompanies the oil and gas activity is one of the biggest issues, as it never stops. In addition to the incessant humming that accompanies the active drilling, there are the lights that shine through Barr's house at night.
Fracking is currently taking place at this Mobley-area drill site. Mary and Richard Underwood’s daughter’s home is just 200 feet away from this location. (Photo by Lauren Matthews)
Barr explained other issues as being a natural gas smell from gas leakages, as well as the "many accidents" and "lots of road blockages" that have taken place from the extra oil and gas traffic on the roads. However, Barr did describe the roads as now being "half-decent," since they have been fixed by the oil and gas companies.
Despite these problems that every nearby resident might face, Barr also has a negative opinion of the industry due to his own, personal dealings with them.
Barr explained that he was approached by EQT, who asked him if they could install a gas meter on his property. Barr stated the company explained it as being "a little bit bigger" than a regular meter. However, Barr said he had no idea the meter would be as big as it ended up being-as can be seen in the accompanying photo-several times larger than a regular meter.
Wetzel County resident Bill Hughes is striving to keep residents abreast of the Marcellus shale activity in the area, spending 35-45 hours a week on the issue.
He says he researches the oil and gas industry because of his grandchildren. "In general, I don't trust the Department of Environmental Protection, the landfill companies, or the oil and gas industry. I want them to have my grandchildren's best interests . . . What's this situation going to look like in the future?"
To inform the public of what he feels could be the future, Hughes often takes individuals on tours of Marcellus-drilled areas and conducts PowerPoint presentations. Hughes explained that he has given approximately 20 Power Point presentations.
The Mobley resident also stated the company claimed they would pay him for damage they inflicted on his yard when transferring their equipment. However, he said he has yet to be given this restitution.
Barr seems less than satisfied about the solution EQT offered him and his family, concerning the noise. "They told me they would put me up in a motel," he remarked. "But that's two to three hours away," he stated, referencing the fact that the oil and gas industry boom has filled up all other nearby establishments.
EQT Media Relations Manager Linda Robertson said, "When landowner concerns arise, EQT works diligently to address them," Robertson stated. "We initiate meetings with landowners to negotiate and explain the activity and equipment they may see on their property or nearby. Specifically in regard to building a gas meter, landowners negotiate and agree on compensation and are informed that the gas meter will require about a quarter acre of property prior to any construction taking place."
She added, "To further engage landowners, EQT is routinely and proactively involved in community outreach efforts in our operating areas by holding open houses and attending council meetings, panel discussions, and other public forums. In fact, an EQT representative attends and participates in each meeting of the Wetzel County Oil & Gas Task Force. EQT's community relations manager and community advisors speak directly with landowners and other concerned citizens each and every day. If a landowner has questions or concerns about their property or nearby operations, those concerns are addressed and resolutions are sought and determined on a case-by-case basis, such as offering hotel rooms, should the situation warrant."
Mary and Richard Underwood of Mobley also spoke to the Wetzel Chronicle regarding their experience with the Marcellus gas industry, as their daughter has become a neighbor to the activity. Her house is located just 200 feet away from current EQT fracking activities. The Underwoods stated that they own this land; however, they do not own the mineral rights.
Marcellus HB 401 was passed in December 2011. This bill orders that well pad locations be located 625 feet from a residence. However, if a well pad permit was issued before December 2011, even if the well was not yet in place, a well pad can stay in the location. These well pad locations stay "grandfathered in," with as many wells as the driller can fit being added at any time to this location. This is the case with the Underwood family.
When the Wetzel Chronicle toured the fracking area, workers were seen wearing masks. Robertson stated that workers wear masks and protective clothing around the fracking processes because they are in close, direct contact with materials during certain stages of a routine process. "With safety as a core value for our company, we strive to meet and exceed all regulatory standards through continuous improvement initiatives.
"The rapid growth of the natural gas industry in Wetzel County has brought some temporary challenges to its community members; however, EQT is proud to be a part of all West Virginia communities, providing direct and indirect advantages to the local economies," Robertson said.
"We've employed nearly 500 West Virginians directly and even hundreds more through contractors and service providers," she added. "In 2012, EQT's capital expenditures and investments in West Virginia added about $150 million to the state's economy."