CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Division of Natural Resources could be the big winner from lucrative natural gas drilling bids being reviewed this week by the state Department of Commerce.

Four bids were opened last Friday for drilling underneath the Ohio River on state-owned property near Pleasants, Wetzel and Marshall counties. State code currently funnels the proceeds to the DNR. State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said the agency has been directed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to set up a separate account for the funds. MetroNews asked Burdette if struggling state parks might benefit from the money.

“It could do a lot of good things for a lot of things,” he said. “No question about it, the state parks might be able to make a little hay with some of this.”

Burdette had to ask the legislature for emergency funding for the parks system earlier this year.

The financial numbers in the bids from the four drilling companies are being crunched this week. Burdette said the royalties for the state in each bid are between 18 and 20 percent and the upfront per acre bonuses range from $211 per acre to $8,425 per acre. The leases range from 3-5 years.

“One of the bonus plans alone would net the state, up front before any royalties, somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-million dollars. That’s just an upfront number,” Burdette said.

The drilling will take place one mile under the Ohio River but the drilling pads won’t be on state property. Burdette said the companies that submitted bids already have drill sites close to the river, some less than two miles away.

Burdette said the state owns property and mineral rights in other locations that could be good for drilling. He said Gov. Tomblin recently released three other tracts for bidding. Burdette said it’s likely the property under the Ohio River would bring in the most money.

“We think some of these bids are probably at the top of the market and we’re encouraged,” Burdette said. “The keenest interest is in the wet zones of Marcellus where we are producing not just natural gas but natural gas liquids of ethane, propane and butane. We think these are some of the most coveted tracts but there may be some others.”

The state has sold mineral rights for 100 years and leases for drilling under the Ohio River began about 25 years ago but not to the current level of interest which is tied to development of horizontal drilling and the Marcellus shale.

Eight different environmental groups in West Virginia and Ohio have expressed concern to the governor about the under river drilling. They fear drinking water could be harmed.

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  • WV Worker

    worker and tater :// read this article and see how safe some drilling companies are

  • Renee Omohundro

    WV residents will pick up the tab for Medicaid and Medicare-funded cancer treatments when the HUNDREDS of toxins associated with fracking spring a high-pressured leak in the WATER SUPPLY. 400,000 gallons of GAS PRODUCTS a day? And the Big and RICH gas companies WHO DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU, sheepishly say, "Oops! Sorry about that folks! Boil Oil Advisory???" Even Granny knew ya don't build your outhouse next to your water well.

  • Renee Omohundro

    Yep. Who are the SELL OUTS? Let's TRY respecting the environment. Let the state parks be nature sanctuaries. Let's progressively pursue human health with CLEAN WATER!!! Watch GASLAND on youtube before you vote for this. Do we even HAVE a vote?

  • Renee Omohundro

    AMEN. Worker Bee is SMARTER than your average, COMMON potato head.

  • Renee Omohundro

    The costs of DISASTER CLEAN UP will negate ALL PROFITS.

  • Renee Omohundro

    Last time I looked, the Ohio River supplied WATER to many communities DOWNSTREAM. Have a heart, West Virginia! Clean water should be a GIVEN. Under river drilling is NOT OKAY.

  • Renee Omohundro

    The benefits of state parks go FAR BEYOND tourism. They are huge environmental detoxifiers (i.e. TREES). All water is connected. This is a sell out, pure and simple. It needs to be stopped. We need to check ourselves, before we wreck ourselves. Water is ESSENTIAL to life. Money is not even worth the paper it is printed on.

  • Renee Omohundro

    Better Headlines for this article:
    1. Jed's a Millionaire, Ellie Mae Dies of Cancer
    2. Hey Boo Boo, I Smell Pork Belly Politics
    3. Call 911, Boo Boo Drank River Water
    4. Toxins + Drinking Water=$$$$ LESS the COST of CANCER TREATMENTS=West Virginia is IN THE HOLE AGAIN.

    Strippers make more money than homemakers, and it still doesn't make stripping WHOLESOME! Drilling makes more money than state parks do, but drilling in a public waterway is still OBSCENE!

  • Leslie Bruner

    I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Journalism, and this should be in the National Enquirer. HORRIBLE reporting, that is OBVIOUSLY SKEWED on the side of the gas companies. Another step in the direction of MORE CANCER, MORE ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS, and HILLBILLY IGNORANCE. 'As long as everybody gets a new truck, it don't matter if our babies die of toxins in what USED TO BE water,'

  • Taxpayer1

    If it were just WV citizens enjoying the park system that concept is easier to accept. When WV taxpayers start picking up the shortfall in funding to create positive quality of life for out of state residents, then something is wrong. And that is exactly what is happening when the parks lose money every year.

  • Taxpayer1

    You know how the park system got so far behind.....a lack of fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Maybe, new thoughts or an outsider is what is really needed.

  • Kelly

    +1000 to both of you. Some things are simply priceless, and I am tired of this jobs justification to scorch everything of beauty.

    Go get off your arse and foot where the jobs are. Bunch of profiteers and tickles. Oh, I am sorry.... working people.

  • worker bee

    WV Worker
    I feel that many folks who oppose drilling just don't take the time to sort through all the agenda driven media, educate themselves on the drilling process and evaluate the facts. You mention the BP oil spill (off shore deep water), but that has little to do with drilling in the Marcellus. You also state fracking ruined water wells in Pa. when the EPA investigation finally concluded it wasn't the fracking process that caused the issues. The wells that will be drilled under the Ohio river will have vertical sections (actual drilling site) far away from the river. A frac job would have to migrate upward thousands of feet through many layers of rock and salt water zones to even come close to the fresh water table, and that just hasn't happed in the Marcellus. You don't like being called a hypocrite, so don't make generalized accusations against a specific local industry that has proven the ability to safely produce the resource. BTW - it's also put billions of dollars into the local economy through lease and royalty payment to private citizens, jobs for thousands of our citizens, and severance tax payments to state governments.

  • jim

    this story is a joke! this cannot happen!

  • WV Worker

    Tater, which companies are you and worker bee referring to be so safe and good,BP who allowed oil to spill in the Gulf, franking in PA that has ruined water wells, possibly the ones drilling causing quakes in the middle of the state. I'm all for safe and effective natural resources and I resent being referred to as hypocrite. There can and probably will be problems with drilling under the Ohio. So think about the next time you want to take your child or grandchild fishing and all you have to do is scoop them up with a net cause they're dead.

  • Ryan

    I bet Emily Fleming - the DNR asst director has some interesting thoughts about that! She's one of the highest paid employees at DNR with a thirst for power. I'm glad the new chief of parks is one who has actually been part of the park system and not some administrator from Charleston who might sell our park system for revenue. The state should fully fund parks but not at their detriment.

  • wvrocks

    Our state parks, which are some of the finest in the nation, are not designed to be money making machines. Their beauty (and affordability) is a big draw to folks from all over, who spend lots of money on food, gasoline, incidentals, etc., while in West Virginia. Sometimes you have to spend a little money to make money. It is a good investment (better than most that they make) for the legislature to support our wonderful park system.

  • thornton

    Well Mr. Contrary,
    Your "joke" made an assumption that both sides had formed an opinion re the lass.
    I suspect that is only true in a joke format....and from the one-sided, broad-brushing environmentalists, of course.
    They appear to be the folks for whom thinking past their own nose and agenda is a struggle not worth the sweat of the doing.
    Again....your "joke" was assumptive and superior and hardly fitting the subject.

    I do think that this apparent windfall can too easily be viewed as a $$$s life raft and why I cautioned the counting of degree and over well as the possibility that any money would be sucked away from the initial target pocket by politicos.

    Nah, don't believe that many see an Alaskan scenario. I think that is a non-starter or way to spin the idea away from the specifics of the issue....that being a possible mineral rights profiting of some yet to be determined amount.
    If this idea goes forward to other state lands then it would be open to and deserving of an analysis of each in turn....otherwise, as you apparently prefer, it will only see more of that negative broad-brushing used to try and make an unsupportable point of some unidentifiable future damage.

    Discussion is fine and dandy.....however, using the Past to define a different Present or predict an unknown Future is far from conducive to an honest discussion.
    Often, that tack only serves to separate.
    Which is the environmentalists stock in trade....that and refusing to see any positive associated with anything but that comparable to old growth and buckwheat groats.

    Nice try on the spinning of your earlier comment but you simply appeared too quick to slap the trigger on that old joke.
    Been waiting for that opportunity a while, have you?
    irregardless as they say around these parts, you might want to consider a bit of pre-post thought yourownself....that would be a good use of.......good sense.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    Some things aren't designed to turn a profit . Some things deserve public funding so that citizens can enjoy a quality of life worth living . State Parks and mass transit come to mind .

  • David

    We are constantly told that tourism is the states biggest industry (which is BS) yet very few of the state parks actually come close to breaking even and most lose money year after year, how can that be?

    Ask your friends...
    Do they want to make minimum wage part time with no benefits working in the tourism industry (that's what most jobs pay) or 25-35 per hour working full time in a coal or gas related job with benefits.

    Tourism... What a load of BS..

  • mntnman

    I love our state parks. I LOVE them. But. This is a big but. If they cannot maintain themselves financially, then should we keep them afloat? At a time when government is struggling to pay its bills, a decision has to be made about which bills we pay. What to do?

  • Jodie

    I think requiring the winning company to put a plan for abatement/cleanup of an accident in with their bid should be part of the process. ( I realize its too late.) As part of that plan being required to post finance a bond 2.5 x's the projected cost of their cleanup should be a requirement. Trust but verify.

  • Wirerowe

    plus 1

  • The bookman

    This isn't the turn of the 20th Century, there are protections, regulations, and government oversight. We do have the benefit of hindsight, and the simple fact that resources were not managed responsibly in the past shouldn't exclude responsible development in the future. As a lifelong resident who has no intention of leaving, it is astounding to hear people make the assumption that those who support the development of resources somehow could care less about clean water or air.

  • Wirerowe

    Very valid concern. If this goes forward Should be iron clad up front that money will go directly to parks for capital improvements. with some gatekeeper other than DNR. No money for staffing and operations.Before it moves forward parks should have a capital improvement plan that proposes how and where money will be spent. With contingency if revenues are much more than anticipated.

  • The bookman


  • WV Common Tater

    I am always amazed at those folks that are against using natural resources but never can quite put it into their life. I bet So So Safe doesn't ride a bike, keeps the house lit in the darkness and warm in the winter. They have a word for them. Hypocrites.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    That's how we thought in the early 20th century in WV when we clear cut timber and mined coal with reckless abandon . Shale is a game changer but not at the expense of sensible environmental concerns . Let's not repeat the sins of the past in WV when extraction companies raped the earth without consequences .

  • worker bee

    Given the industries track record, it is very safe to say the horizontal sections of the well bore that will lie under the Ohio river will be effectively isolated from the fresh water table and pose no threat the water quality of the river. Your ignorance of the drilling and completion process, coupled with a superiority complex that is completely unfounded, leads one to value your opinion for what it's worth - completely nothing.

  • Wirerowe

    In this case since the state holds the mineral rights we can accurately say ours. We all care about Mother Gaia. An environmentalist to me is someone who has total disregard for economics. Either the shale resource under the river will be developed or it won't. The state does not have the capacity to develop the resource. maybe an alternative would be for the state to get into the business, hold title to the gas and contract with some one to develop the gas. Probably do just as well to get an upfront fee and royalties. If we get a good business deal on the development of the gas I do no know what prostituing one self means. I agree that this particular development under rivers that are potentially sources of drinking water should proceed with extra caution and all safe guard in place.

  • Hillboy

    I'm thinking that somewhere in Charleston there is someone thinking that this is going to be too big of a pot of money for all of it to stay with DNR. I will be surprised if no one finds a way to divert some of it for other uses.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    My apologies if my call for thinking angered anyone who visits this site.

    I criticized no one's opinion. I simply sought a call for thought and discussion when the the prospect of prostituting our resources for short-term gain heads its ugly rear.
    This latest fracking budgetary life raft dangles the carrot of saving the state park system and the inference is made that if this doesn't happen, state parks (aren't we all about tourism?) will suffer or even close.

    So many posters think that The Frackers will take the state to a no-taxes-like-Alaska-nirvana. I doubt that will happen as I doubt the good people of this state would stand for the closing of a state park. Politicos know that would be tantamount to political suicide in their districts.

    We do have a history rich with regard for our natural resources and public safety, don't we?

    I guess, Mr. thornton, if broad-brushing and labeling dissenting opinions to justify your own makes your day then continue killing messengers if you don't like their message. That way, you reinforce the notion the "environmentalists" (once again defined broadly as anyone who cares about God's Creation, I'll wager) have formed about The Frackers and their armchair minions. That lessens the prospect of mature, informed discussion from either side.

    I guess the last thing we want is thought and discussion. That notion isn't "superior". I call it good sense to most West Virginians.

  • thornton

    Using the word "we're" from only one side of a conversation and based solely upon looks or reputation does sound like the anti-fossil fuel folk's attitude and method of operation.
    It's rather a superior view to be so assumptive with so very little to go on.

    But, when one has so very little then I reckon any old joke in a storm and simply hope that folks read it quickly and w/o thinking....kinda, sorta like the way anti fossil fuel folks read a study, an actual study or one artfully created to support their view and promote unreasoning angst.

    My only question would be...did the DNR receive royalty payments from the shallow and shallow-ish oil and gas wells drilled on Ohio River islands many moons ago?

  • so so safe if if if

    The regulators say drilling under this water supply for millions of people will be safe IF all the precautions are taken. Don't you just love it when they say IF??? Given the industries track record, millions can expect contaminated water in exchange for hillbillies' greed for money.

  • The bookman

    The drilling process carries with it associated risk for contamination. That's the purpose of regulating the industry, to take precaution to safeguard the environment from contamination and hazardous release of toxins. This activity is happening all along the Ohio, as well as intensive infrastructure projects to support this growing industry.

    Allowing the state to take advantage of its ownership of the resources doesn't change that level of risk, as the horizontal fracturing component of the process holds the least risk. As long as industry can demonstrate that fracturing state acreage under the River can be done in a safe and secure way, the project should be permitted. I don't think anyone is suggesting we throw caution to the wind.

  • Big Deal

    It's always safe until it's not.

  • Robert

    Yep. If we can relocate all the extractionists to one containment area, they can dig themselves to China.

  • The bookman

    Is the NG for sale in the Marcellus or is it not? As a valuable resource, should we not develop it? On what principle do you stand to restrain WV from maximizing its worthwhile return to the treasury?

  • Mason County Contrarian

    In the stewardship of our natural resources, we have become like the young lass offered money for her favors: "Just what kind of girl do you think I am?" "We're not arguing about the kind of girl you are," came the reply. "We're quibbling over the price."

    Just something to think about.

  • makes sense

    The east is the future of WV. The west, in the national sacrifice zone being created by the extraction industry ( much like the southern counties already are) is lost. If it were really true, which I doubt, that this money went right into the east, and the state parks there, it would be a fine devil's bargain. A devil bargain in a state that's been doing business with that man for a century and a half. Course, the devil has a way of taking it all in the end.

  • thornton

    Hardly a hoax...the benefits that can track mineral rights ownership like a tick can make life it for an individual or a state department....and certainly better for many species of critters. Even more so, if forward-thinking forest management benefits from the lucre received.

    Would that WV had been as wise as PA was in their Gamelands program and manner PGC funding.
    Let's hope that WV now starts using some of that unspent good thinking for the betterment of all that reside in her borders.

    While at it, would that the ignorant souls such as above spend a bit of time in a quiet and darkened room thinking past the hate-filled generalities that make them all giggly and well past the created angst that drives so many supposed "environmental" causes today....drives them down a dead-end two-track.

    Any problem with this possible and, somewhat, unexpected cash flow might be in counting chickens too early or in having the money received siphoned off by a politico's straw....some politicos can get a right good draw built up through one of those sissy sticks.

  • Woodchuck

    This is a hoax to gain support for this dangerous endeavor. They know damn well this is endangering the water supply of the Ohio Valley. Just another government lie so they can give money to the fairs and festivals in their districts. Wake up WV and vote these cronies out of office.

  • David Kennedy

    Certainly a Win - Win proposition.
    Any addition to the states revenue stream that will help offset the projected losses we will face with the coal tax revenues it a positive move in my book.
    I would also like to see certain cities do this same thing...and offset the projected tax sharing losses that they will face in the near future.
    Natural Gas is coming to us, but it is 10 years away.
    In that mean time, taxes must be controlled and supplimented.
    What is at stake is our high schools in the southern part of the state...they will lose funding first...
    If gas lease revenue can be allocated for them, that will give that future generation of children a chance to be educated and find a job...if not in West Virginia...then some other state with a brighter future.

  • The bookman

    Surprise! I say drill baby drill. If the State can benefit from the ownership of mineral rights, and from severance, and the drilling can be accomplished safely, how is this a bad thing?