Oglebay Gas Drilling on Hold

WHEELING – It does not appear there will be any natural gas drilling in Oglebay Park anytime soon because state environmental regulators are sending the permits back to Chesapeake Energy.

The Oklahoma City-based driller sought permission to drill on park property from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas in May. However, members of the Wheeling Park Commission quickly objected to several of Chesapeake’s drilling plans, thus preventing any rigs from moving in on the land.

Now, environmental department spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said state officials are sending the applications back to Chesapeake, noting the time period for response has expired.

“We will be returning the permits to the operator (Chesapeake) because they have not responded to the comments,” she said.

However, Chesapeake officials noted in a prepared statement that they are working to address the concerns of park commissioners.

“Chesapeake Appalachia is continuing our discussions with the leadership at the park commission regarding our development plans for the area. As we’ve mentioned before, we feel very confident that we will have provided feedback for any remaining questions or concerns they may have prior to any activity occurring on the park property,” the statement provided by Chesapeake’s Director of Corporate Development Stacey Brodak reads. Chesapeake Appalachia is the local subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy.

The park commission’s comments, filed by Wheeling attorney James Gardill, questioned Chesapeake’s Oglebay drilling plans in the following areas:

  • incomplete report on water use and transportation;
  • incomplete report on gas distribution;
  • incomplete report on coal seam depth;
  • incomplete report on the source of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, water;
  • questions on the size of the drill pad;
  • questions regarding the disposal of hydraulic fracturing “fracking” fluid;
  • questions regarding the construction of an impoundment pond;
  • incomplete report on how the company will deal with accidental spills or runoff;
  • incomplete report on how the firm will protect nearby streams from pollution;
  • an additional comment regarding potential spills; and
  • an inadequate safety plan.

During a telephone interview Monday, Gardill emphasized park commissioners are still very concerned with the vague Chesapeake drilling scheme.

“In the short term, there is no longer an application to drill. This gives us the chance to work out the issues,” he said.

With recent reports of the possible risks associated with Marcellus Shale drilling in Marshall and Wetzel counties – including traffic accidents, potential water contamination and air pollution among others – Gardill said park commissioners know they have to make sure Oglebay is adequately protected.

Regarding possible spills and runoff, Gardill’s objections note Chesapeake’s plan makes it “unclear how the stream and residences will be protected against erosion runoff or inadvertent spills of (fracking) fluid and other associated waste material.” The drill site slope “drains into the heart of Oglebay Park, across a golf course and a pool and recreational complex that is on the National Register of Historic Places,” the comment continues, noting Chesapeake should develop and share plans to address such potential problems.

Regarding the size and location of the drill pad, park officials previously said the surface would begin at a point between W.Va. 88 and GC&P Road, near the Oglebay Stables and bridle trails. The pad, according to the plan, would measure about 400 by 300 feet, or 120,000 square feet.

However, the commission’s objections to the DEP note Chesapeake “previously advised the property owners that a drill pad of approximately 12 to14 acres will be required, given the steep slope of the bank on which the drill pad will be located.” There are 43,560 square feet in one acre, so a 12- to 14-acre pad could end up measuring more than 600,000 square feet.

According to the five-year lease the park commission and city of Wheeling signed with Chesapeake, the bodies are set to evenly split the 14 percent production royalties for the property. Earlier this year, the commission and city each gained $386,629 in lease payments from Chesapeake as part of the drilling contract.

Chesapeake also paid the park commission $100,133 to lease property at Wheeling Park. Any of the 14 percent in drilling royalties for action at this park would go toward improving the facility.