The City Council in Morgantown, West Virginia has voted to ban horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing within 1 mile of city limits. According to a report from wboy.com, just before the council voted, the mayor of Morgantown said the city was being forced to take the action because West Virginia lacks effective state regulation for fracking.
In hydraulic fracturing, fracking fluids are injected into the ground at high pressure to shake loose gas and oil deposits. It is believed that fracking fluids contain some toxic chemicals. Some of the fluid returns to the surface as brine, which may contain metals like barium and strontium and even small amounts of radioactivity. Opponents of fracking are concerned that this type of natural gas drilling could lead to pollution of vital drinking water sources, either through the release of naturally-occurring hazardous substances or as a result of spills or leaks involving fracking fluid or fracking wastewater.
According to wboy.com, the push for a fracking ban in Morgantown was prompted by the recent revelation that Northeast Natural Energy of Charleston had been permitted to drill two Marcellus Shale natural gas wells just upriver from the areaâ€™s drinking water intake on the Monongahela River. Among other things, many Morgantown residents expressed frustration that there is no public notification and comment process for gas wells.
Just before the vote, council members heard from residents and others opposed to fracking. These included residents of adjacent Wetzel County where fracking is already prevalent.
â€œComing with this Marcellus development youâ€™re going to have tons of air pollution, water pollution â€” Iâ€™ve submitted copies of accidents, road issues, water contaminations,â€ said Wetzel County resident Ed Wade, according to wboy.com.
â€œItâ€™s going to put a strain on your volunteer fire departments, your EMS, your law enforcement. All of this is going to have to be doubled and tripled,” he continued.
In the end the ordinance establishing the fracking ban passed 6-1. Councilman Charles Byrer cast the lone no vote, expressing concern that Morgantown would eventually regret the ban, as well as a preference for state regulation.
Morgantown is the second West Virginia city to enact a fracking ban. This past April, the Council of Wellsburg approved an ordinance that forbids natural gas drilling within the city limits, and further bans fracking within five miles of the city limits.
Meanwhile, legislators in West Virginia are trying to come up with fracking regulations for the state. According to a report from The Republic, legislative leaders announced last week that they would form a special joint committee to tackle the issue. The Legislature proved unable to pass a Marcellus bill during this year’s 60-day regular session. The stateâ€™s governor has said that if the Legislature comes to an agreement on fracking regulations, he would call a special session to vote on the rules.