Whiteman Complains To Commission About Chesapeake
At the July 27 County Commission meeting Martin Whiteman Jr. and his family met to make the commission aware of the detrimental situation they are facing due to the Marcellus Shale oil and gas activity that’s taken over their land, livelihood, and clean, vital resources.
Born and raised residents of Wetzel County, the Whiteman family are third and fourth generation farmers. They discussed two farms they own and operate-one that’s already been taken over by well pads and pipelines and another that the family fears they will lose in the near future. “We want to tell you about the impact and devastation we’ve experienced,” said Whiteman. “We’ve been irreparably damaged on our farm and way of living.”
Primarily sheep farmers, Whiteman and his family described the situation from their point of view. They stated the problems began for them three years ago when Chesapeake contractors approached them about not owning their mineral rights. Understanding that very fact, Whiteman simply asked to be compensated for any damages done to the land that would affect their farming. According to Whiteman a Chesapeake representative assured them they would not lose, but rather gain, hay. The Whitemans were paid $15,000 for the first well site put onto their farmland. However, since that time the Whitemans have been allegedly bullied and threatened by other oil and gas contractors and land-men about acquiring other land on the Whitemans’ property. Whiteman went on to say a representative from the federal level of the EPA has stated these sort of deals are all the same. “The farmers are mislead,” underlined Whiteman. “I don’t think we’ve been treated fairly. I do have a deed.” Whiteman went on to note that these land-men are trained to be slick or friendly and do whatever is necessary to gain the land for drilling, noting these individuals eventually turn on you.
Whiteman has resolved that unless he is financially compensated for further drilling on his property, he and his family will have to drop everything and leave the area. The Whitemans lament they are not able to farm as they used to, and furthermore that such recent activity has led to undrinkable water and unbreathable air-problems they intentionally tried to avoid in making the choice to live on Silver Hill. “They’ve destroyed Silver Hill,” the Whitemans exclaimed.
While the county commission has little power in the situation, the commissioners expressed their sympathies to the family and all others who are dealing with these drastic changes in the valley. The commission was also collectively shocked at the perceived lack of cooperation on Chesapeake’s part and offered suggestions to the Whitemans such as contacting certain cordial members of Chesapeake. Whiteman said he simply doesn’t trust Chesapeake based on how they’ve treated him and his family. County Commission President Don Mason reiterated his disappointment that Chesapeake hasn’t worked with the family better and said he would do his part, as the rest of the commission similarly expressed.
The Wetzel Chronicle contacted a Chesapeake representative for comment on this situation, but has yet to receive a reply.
At the Aug. 17 meeting of the commission, Scott Hicks of Belomar Regional Council called in to discuss the current status of the Whiteman Hill project. Hicks reiterated what was said at last week’s meeting by Keith Nelsen, district manager of Public Service District #1, but went on further to say he recently checked with Congressman Alan Mollohan’s office about the money earmarked for the Whiteman Hill project and three others in the region. At this point the originally requested $4.6 million has been reduced to $1 million and Hicks doesn’t know what this means for any of the projects. Hicks stated all they can do is wait and see. The commission then asked if they should move forward with applying for the infrastructure and Rule 42 application and Hicks recommended the commission and PSD hold off on that application because should funding amounts or grant sources change, a new application would be required anyhow.