Editor’s Note: Through May 4, The Register-Herald will publish a daily story featuring in-depth interviews we conducted with candidates seeking the office of governor of West Virginia. Each of the 16 people who filed was issued an invitation to appear before our editorial board, and 14 of those came to Beckley to meet with us and discuss some of the key issues in West Virginia. The stories will appear in the order in which the candidates were interviewed. Today’s story focuses on Republican candidate Clark Barnes, of Elkins.
1 — It certainly appears that Marcellus shale regulation will remain a major topic of interest for the next several years. What are the key features that you see that need to be included in West Virginia law to best serve the interests of all the parties involved?
It’s a very good question. The Marcellus shale will not only be of interest, but it’s a great economic opportunity for us in West Virginia. To put it simply and succinctly, legislation that needs to be addressed with the Marcellus is No. 1, we need to consider surface owners’ rights. Now, in the central part of West Virginia, most of our surface rights and mineral rights are separated. I’m not familiar enough with the land down here — the titles — to know that’s the situation. But that creates a real hardship off and on the surface owners. We need to address surface owners’ rights, not in a manner that would at all deny the owner of minerals or gas underneath from getting to what they own. But so that surface owners are handled respectfully and that there is a required meet and come together on the location of roads, well sites, pipelines and things of that nature before the permits are issued.
Secondly, we need to ensure that the aquifer is protected, that groundwater. The aquifer is what farmers and what the landowners depend on for wells. We’re doing a pretty good job of that. And the technology is there, the casing, the cementing, and all that’s done. When it’s done properly, there should never be a problem with that.
The only question that I have is, do we have adequate inspectors to be there at the site when that critical part of the procedure is being done?
The third thing is that we must be able to monitor and account for the vast amounts of water that are needed for the drilling and fracking process. Just to ensure that streams are not taken, you know, not as much water is taken out of them that is affecting water supplies somewhere else or damaging the aquatic life in that stream.
The fourth thing is we have to have is a system of ensuring that the fluids that when they’re finished with the fracking process are removed, recycled, handled, disposed of properly. I think those are the four key things that have to do with water.
The fifth thing that we really have to ensure — and that’s not necessarily part of the Marcellus legislation — is that we have to ensure that the roads are maintained and repaired when and after all the work has been done. When we go up into Weztel County and Tyler County and those areas and you see the size of trucks and the equipment that’s on those roads, people are concerned in the areas where Marcellus is a big issue.