Environmental Concerns


Recently I began researching my family’s mineral rights in Clay District. As part of that research, and because of the controversy surrounding “fracking”, I’ve learned much about the environmental impact. I’ve learned, for example, that there is a lower-impact form of “hydraulic fracturing”/fracking, but also, such drilling can be seriously damaging to the local environment, esp. the water supply. As I begin to negotiate minerals leases with companies wanting to do fracking, I want to proceed in a way that is environmentally responsible. While I acknowledge that such energy exploration is necessary (I use oil and gas too!), I’d like to think I/my family is not making the lives of West Virginians miserable. After all, some of my ancestors come from there. Any thoughts are welcome.


There is not much an individual mineral owner can do, I think. Have you found the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization ? They probably have some good ideas. Even though you do not own the surface, you could contact them. This is one of their concerns. Many of the mineral rights in northern WV have been “severed” (retained when the surface was sold, usually, although sometimes the landowner sold off some or all of the mineral rights). But of course there are still plenty of landowners who also own mineral rights. This is a big concern for my sister and me as well. And, you can always find a local Ritchie county charity to support when you get some royalty money. For example, the local cemeteries and volunteer fire departments.


Yes, our rights were “severed” when the land was sold. One topic I intend to bring up at our family meeting is whether we want to profit from exploration by a company which is abusive of local residents, if there is such there. I would vote to withdraw our permission and lose the revenue were it ascertained that a company was like that, or that it was engaging in the “bad” kind of fracking. The principal concerns with “bad” fracking is with the injection of millions of gallons of water into the wells which later must be removed and disposed of. It brings up questions such as, Where are they getting all that water from? And, where will they dispose of polluted water once removed? Then of course there are the allegations of destabilization and earthquakes. In Oklahoma, e.g., where fracking has been going on aggressively for years, they’ve had thousands of earthquakes in the last few years where before they seldom had any. [https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-27/oklahoma-toughens-oil-fracking-rules-as-shale-earthquakes-climb]

Another concern is wear and tear on local resources. Here in Mississippi, my cousin (a senator) proposed a law that would tax fracking operators to pay for significant wear on local highways, because the huge water trucks, travelling many times a day, were tearing them up. But others (oil company and owners) defeated it.


I recommend that you get a subscription to the Ritchie Gazette (weekly) and keep up with the local news. There have been local entities that are making sure (or trying to) that the water trucks etc. follow the rules. Also a way to see about local charities. When an application for a permit for a horizontal well is filed, that is listed in the paper so people can comment. Wednesday’s paper usually comes to me on Saturday. As people living out of state from our minerals, we can’t vote in local elections but we can write letters to the editor for example. There is a local man who seems very interested in environmental issues. Plus, a way to stay connected to your “roots”!


You might find reading this permit application interesting. It is for a new pad in the Clay District. This is for the initial leg. Our units are the Genny unit. https://www.dep.wv.gov/oil-and-gas/GI/Documents/Weekly%20Report/00%20-%202017%20Weekly%20Report/04-03-2017/Permits/47-085-10318%20-%20Copy.pdf


Go Sugar Run! Our lands are on Hushers Run and then (north of Hwy 50) Big Knot Run and Bonds Creek.

Fascinating document-- thank you. It’s good to see that there is some transparency re reporting all particulars by the production companies. However, whether they conform to these promises is another question. I wonder if the State inspects and confirms these arrangements? When I visit there, I intend to visit our well sites (with the surface owner’s permission), just to say hello. I see that the 1% of “other” injection materials is a witches brew that I’d need a degree in chemical engineering to understand. On first perusal, I didn’t see where they’d be getting the water they’ll need, nor what they’ll do with the extracted waste waters afterward, but I’m still studying it. Clearly, this is a document I should get for our wells.

I hope to return the favor by continuing to post helpful information as we continue our “investigation”.


There was something about buying water from the surface owner. A well perhaps?


I’ll look for that. But, one well requires (so I’m told) millions of gallons of water to inject, so his well may run dry. (Here in Mississippi, they all but drained a small lake near our land.)


The companies have to file a complicated water plan. If you can find a completion report for a well, it will have that plan. For the Sugar Run 4 well, the latest activity was April 2017. Go to the WV Office of Oil and Gas, select “Database and Map Information” then choose “Search Oil and Gas Database” then choose “Search for Oil and Gas permits” and put in the API number 4708510318. You can go to this database called Downloads site from the WV Geological Survey and choose “Ritchie” then scroll down to that API number. In the latest edition of the Pennsboro News (not out on paper yet except in the area) there were several proposed permits for Genny, Riggs and Buzzard Run wells. Those should be in the Weekly Reports in the next weeks if they are approved.