WHEELING - About 20 individual objections have been filed with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection concerning Chesapeake Energy's plan to drill near Wheeling Park High School.
Chesapeake continues to plan its Park System Trust Fund site about 1,300 feet from the high school. The company currently is awaiting permit approval from the state.
The Ohio County Board of Education has objected to the proposed site, noting it could affect safety at the high school. The board met this past Thursday with its legal counsel to discuss a direct appeal to DEP Secretary Randy Huffman to deny Chesapeake's permit.
The Ohio County Commission and Wheeling City Council also this past week passed formal resolutions objecting to the drilling location, with the school district submitting the comments to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
Chesapeake offered the following comment on the opposition to the proposed well site. "Chesapeake has been actively engaged with key stakeholders on this site, as well as the superintendent's office and members of the Ohio County Board of Education," said company spokeswoman Jacque Bland, noting Chesapeake will seek to have more communication with school officials as the project moves forward.
The local groups have additional support in the form of about 20 individual objections filed by residents to the DEP in an effort to prevent the well site from being located so close to the school. Some filed more than one objection.
Although the well's 1,300-foot distance from the school is more than twice the legal limit for wells to be located from an "occupied dwelling," this does not suffice for some Wheeling residents that are among those objecting to the site.
"How do you intend to keep prevailing winds from carrying fumes/vapors toward students and staff?" one resident wrote to the DEP.
Chesapeake, in legal advertisements, notes the "potential to discharge" the following materials into the air from the operations at the local Sand Hill and Battle Run compressor stations, as well as some local gas well sites throughout Ohio County: carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide equivalent, benzene, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, acetaldehyde, acrolein, ethylbenzene, methanol, n-hexane, toluene, xylenes and nitrous oxide.
"Given the serious financial challenges currently being experienced by Chesapeake - and given the propensity of corporations to reduce spending and cut back on non-essential, short-term costs - safety considerations are sometimes an easy target to reduce spending," another resident commented.
The financial issues include Chesapeake Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon taking a personal 2.5 percent stake in the company's drilling operations in Marshall, Ohio and Brooke counties.
"The short-term and long-term safety and health concerns are for all stages: site preparation, drilling, fracking, flaring, completion and production," another resident wrote to the DEP. "If this well pad is allowed, what will be done to protect students whose track, ball field and other outdoor areas are downwind from the proposed well pad?
"What is the total number of condensate storage tanks that will likely be left on this proposed well pad? What size are these tanks? Exactly where would they be located on the pad?"
Another Wheeling resident asked the DEP to deny Chesapeake's permit because she said the well site will "constitute a hazard to the safety of all persons who attend school at WPHS, or who work there, or who attend activities there."
"I am concerned over the many young, inexperienced, new drivers that will be traveling on the same road as these extremely large trucks. This is for the safety of our children. This road is not big enough for non-stop truck traffic with our children driving to and from school. Our children should be everyone's first priority," the resident wrote.
A resident from New Martinsville also filed an objection, as did one from Morgantown.
"Not long ago, one of Chesapeake's wells south of here in Marshall County experienced a significant explosion after which a well fire burned out of control for over a week," the New Martinsville resident wrote regarding a Sept. 19, 2010 fire at a Chesapeake site.
"I am against this permit as it is a hazard to all who work and attend WPHS, including all residences and business nearby. Please deny this permit," the Morgantown resident wrote.