Fracking companies asking for surface and mineral rights in West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky

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Close to 200 people crammed the Westmoreland Women’s Club to discuss offers from energy companies to buy or lease mineral rights on their properties that sit over the Rogersville Shale.

Drema Justice got a letter offering her $1,400 for her mineral rights in Putnam County, where one of four test wells is located.

“They wanted me to send it back, and they would own it, basically,” says Ms. Justice.

The companies want the right to drill and frack.

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Fracking entails drilling into a shale, and breaking rocks to free up oil and natural gas, which is then brought to the surface through a pipeline.

Letters like the one received by Ms. Justice are being sent all over, from central Kentucky to Calhoun County, West Virginia.

“Cabell County, Putnam County, Kanawha County, Wayne County. It’s being tested right now,” explains organizer, Robin Blakeman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “We’re very concerned. It’s a very deep field. It may contain oil as well as gas.”

Ms. Blakeman says she and others at the grass roots organization has heard horror stories from those living above the Marcellus and Utica shales, which are already being fracked.

“There are multiple problems with water quality, air quality, people getting sickened near the wells, people having their property values drop, and people not being able to get insurance on their homes because of a well nearby,” says Ms. Blakeman.

Outside the meeting, Malinda Ross tells 13 News that two years ago, she leased her mineral rights to a company for five years. — She is satisfied so far.

“We got a great big sum of money,” says the Huntington native, who accepted the offer for mineral rights at a property in Marion County, West Virginia.

Others, like Marilyn Howells of Wayne County, say it is too much of a risk to even consider.

“What happens to your timber and water rights? What happens to your timber and water?,” asks Ms. Howells. “Air quality. Water. What about noise? Lights? What hours of the day do they drill?”

Those questions are rarely answered in the short letters sent by energy companies.

Although a University of Kentucky study concludes there is likely high-quality oil and gas in the deep Rogersville shale, it is still unclear whether energy companies are “speculating” or if we are indeed on the verge of a fracking boom.

Supporters say fracking is a job creator and will bring down energy prices, while opponents (many of whom were at this meeting) have serious concerns about water, air and property values.

Representatives from OHVEC as well as the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization urged everyone in attendance not to turn down the offers, but to get advice from a property rights attorney before taking any action.

Test wells have been drilled by different companies in Lawrence County and Johnson County in Kentucky, and Putnam County and Wayne County in West Virginia.

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