Industry Official: Drilling Problems ‘Temporary’

Those living near oil and natural gas drilling operations should not face long-term environmental and quality of life concerns, said an industry leader who heard Ohio County residents’ complaints in person this week.

“As uncomfortable as they may be, the problems with these odors, noise and truck traffic are generally only temporary,” said Charlie Burd, executive director of the Charleston-based Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia. “We are talking about weeks or months, but not years.”

Though he did not speak during the session, Burd attended the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality public hearing at West Liberty University’s Highlands Center this week. The hearing officially only addressed Chesapeake Energy’s air quality permit application to emit certain pollutants – methane, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde – from the Dytko well pad along Stone Church Road, but those in attendance took the opportunity to let the Division of Air Quality workers know there are problems throughout West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

“I really sensed a good bit of frustration among those who were there,” Burd said. “People have the right to express their views, but they have to realize the rules are set up to protect residents and businesses.”

Burd mentioned the new set of stricter drilling guidelines passed into law last year that, among other new requirements, increased the distance that wells must be from buildings and required public notice of every permit drillers seek from the DEP.

“The Legislature understood that they needed to weigh the concerns of residents against the investment our industry is making. The bill they passed provides much more oversight on the industry. But over the past year, our industry has pumped billions into the state’s economy,” he said.

Burd also said industry leaders are working “every day” to improve operations to make the work smoother and less disruptive.

Also during the meeting, Stone Church Road resident Dr. Michael Blatt and Dallas Pike Road resident Blanche Rybeck expressed concern over the amount of noise being produced during Chesapeake’s drilling and fracking operations. Blatt said the noise is sometimes so bad that he and his neighbors need to wear earphones to go outside.

Rybeck said she lives in the middle of several drilling pads, noting that she has needed to wear ear plugs to “get a good night’s sleep” for a long time. She said last week, the pressure of the sound got so bad that she had to track down Chesapeake officials to ask them to build a sound barrier. Once the barrier was up, Rybeck said the situation improved somewhat.

Chesapeake Senior Director of Corporate Development Stacey Brodak said the company “properly addressed Ms. Rybeck’s concerns.”

“We take all landowner complaints very seriously and do attempt to mitigate issues as soon as possible after learning of them,” Brodak added.