XTO Energy Donates $25,000 to Belmont County Emergency Management Agency

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank Belmont County EMA Director David Ivan, left, accepts a donation of $25,000 from Brian Teller, XTO Operations Manager for the Appalachia District.

The Belmont County Board of Commissioners welcomed representatives of XTO Energy during is Wednesday meeting and accepted a donation of $25,000 from the energy company for the Belmont County Emergency Management Agency.

Commissioners Josh Meyer and Mark Thomas were present, with Commissioner J.P. Dutton on vacation.

Brian Teller, XTO Operations Manager for the Appalachia District, commended the local cooperation and the Work of Belmont County EMA Director David Ivan and his team’s preparedness, which helped serve the area well during a well pad explosion and fire in February at the XTO Energy Schnegg pad near Captina Creek. The event called for the evacuation of several residents in a 1-mile radius while personnel responded.

“At XTO, we’re always looking for opportunities to give back to the communities we work in,” said Teller. “That’s part of our general commitment. Today’s a great opportunity to give back to the county of Belmont.

The Belmont Emergency Management Agency is a critical part of emergency responses,” he said. “We’ve worked with them numerous times on drills and actual incidents. More importantly, it’s for the citizens of Belmont County. Dave spends hours and hours with his team making sure to think of all of the things we as the public don’t think about.”

Teller said they had established a good working relationship with the agency.

“I want to thank you guys for all you’ve done for the county of Belmont, for industry and for the citizens of the county,” he said.

Teller also said talks with Ivan and the EMA have continued for the past few months following the explosion.

“We’re continuing to look at our operations to find more effective and efficient ways to operate wells,” he said. “We’re actively in the process of reviewing those things with (the Ohio Department of Natural Resources). In the near future we’ll be able to elaborate more on some of those changes.”

Teller also said the ODNR investigation was still active, and the results would be released as soon as it was complete.

He said impact to the water and air quality has been minimal following the event.

“Environmentally, we were very lucky,” he said. “We’re continuing to work with ODNR to ensure that that pad is adequately tested and anything that was contaminated has been disposed of properly.”

XTO Spokeswoman Karen Matusic said in the coming days, XTO will submit plans to state regulators to safely restart the two existing wells at the Schnegg pad and to finish the completion operations of the two other wells.

“A significant amount of testing has been underway to ensure the integrity of the well bore,” she said. “As always, safety and environmental protection is our top priority, so we did not want to rush anything.”

Ivan said the fund will be used to replace his department’s outdated server. He also said there have been no major issues with the current system.

“We’re just trying to head it off at the pass,” he said. “Take care of the problem before we have a huge incident.”

He said expects the upgrades to be complete by the first of the year.

“Our internet’s going to be faster,” said Ivan. “All of our data sharing is going to be faster.

“Back in February, we had that incident at one of the pads,” he said. “We’ve had these oil and gas safety meetings prior to this incident, so we to to know these folks ahead of time … Thankfully, we already had a rapport with the folks from XTO, so it made the operations of everything go extremely smooth.”

Ivan said the company performed well during the incident.

“They exemplify what incident command is all about,” he said. “I was totally shocked that a private company understood and worked incident command the way they did, and it was phenomenal.”

Ivan said he looks forward to continuing to work with the company after a complete report is released by the regulatory agencies.

“They’re still in the middle of their investigation to find out exactly what went wrong,” he said. “Once they get that detailed report, we’ll be able to sit down with them and say what issues we need to start looking at in the future.”

Meyer said he was likewise impressed when he visited EMA operations during the incident.

“It was well-organized,” he said. “The teams all worked well together and I think that went a long way to getting to a positive conclusion of what went on in Powhatan in February. We appreciate XTO’s commitment to the area, and we really appreciate your donation.”

Thomas said XTO has been among the most conscientious of the oil and gas interests in updating the board regarding its activities.

“XTO’s been a great corporate partner of Belmont County from the very beginning,” said Thomas who also said XTO representatives provide weekly updates to the commissioners regarding the company’s operations. “It gives us detailed information on what XTO is doing in Belmont County at this time, and that’s greatly appreciated. As this industry grows in the future, Belmont County knows it can count on XTO for excellent communication.”

The Rev. Michael Ziebarth of the Life-Giving Fountain Greek Orthodox Church in Martins Ferry, who has voiced concerns about the potential risks and need for safeguards around well pads, praised the donation.

“Any financial return to the community, especially through the government that deals with the industry … is a very good thing,” he said.