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Environmental group raises concerns about river drilling

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — A well known environmental protection advocacy organization in West Virginia is raising all kinds of red flags about the state’s new agreement which clears the way for gas drilling operations under the Ohio River.

Robin Blakeman, an organizer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition says they have numerous problems with the idea, but at the top of the list is what happens to the by product of the drilling process in the river environment.

“Probably the main concern is the disposal of waste products,” she told Metronews. “The fracking industry just hasn’t quite solved this problem of all the waste they generate.”

Blakeman feared injection wells would start dotting the landscape near the shores in both Ohio and West Virginia, but noted Ohio’s laws on injection wells were far less stringent than West Virginia.

Other concerns are about hauling the waste away from the sites on a river barge.

“There could be drilling going on under the river and the waste products could be simultaneously shipped on the river,” she said. “Waste from both sources could could compound the contaminants.”

The state recently announced an agreement with Norwegian based driller  Statoil has entered into an agreement with West Virginia.  Under the plan, Statoil will prospect for oil and gas.  The state will be paid $8,732 per acre with 20 percent production royalties.

OVEC intends to oppose future permits from the work, but Blackman is doubtful about their chances of stopping the process.

“Thus far in the north central part of West Virginia, Doddridge County particularly, there hasn’t been a whole lot of attention paid to citizen comments related to fracking operation permits,” said Blakeman.

She adds the rules on fracking are often vague and there are many expedition granted for gas drilling.

“They are actually less regulated than the coal industry,”she said.





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