Commission passes resolutions on Marcellus shale, coal & districting
The Morgan County Commissioners staked out positions on three separate state issues during their June 16 meeting, signing official resolutions on all three.
Commissioner Brad Close championed a resolution that called for revising the method by which House of Delegates districts are drawn. The resolution he introduced called for 100 single-member House districts, rather than the current arrangement, where a district might have multiple representatives, based on population considerations.
“The Morgan County Commission believes the citizens of Morgan County and West Virginia will benefit from such redistricting through a more balanced and fairer representation within the House of Delegates,” said the resolution, which passed 2-1, with Commission President Stacy Dugan opposing.
Marcellus Shale study group
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson asked for a vote on her resolution creating a county committee to study the economic and environmental considerations associated with natural gas drilling through the Marcellus Shale formation, which underlies most of West Virginia.
There has been a recent focus on this particular kind of gas drilling across the state, but the practice has not been regulated specifically by state lawmakers.
Drilling through the shale to capture pockets of underground natural gas has raised questions in other locations, including New York and Pennsylvania.
Under scrutiny is the drilling method, which is called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Under the resolution, which passed unanimously, the county will create a four to 12-member committee to advise the County Commission on how to “prepare Morgan County citizens to face the consequences of the projected increase in natural gas development within the county borders and in neighboring counties.”
The committee will present a preliminary report in six months, and a final report in 18 months, said the resolution.
Members will be chosen from a variety of groups, including the gas industry, landowners, small businesses, farmers, health officials, environmental groups and the general population.
Hutchinson said she would like to ask the Planning Commission to spearhead the formation and activities of the group. If that board isn’t available to take the lead, Hutchinson said she would personally lead the effort.
WV Coal Campaign
Commissioner Dugan brought forward a resolution suggested to her by a representative of “Faces of Coal” calling for federal representatives to revise regulations affecting the coal industry.
The documents positions Morgan County as calling on federal and state agencies and representatives to “support coal production and the jobs, economic growth and energy security provided by coal mining by fixing a regulatory system that is frustrating these vital objectives.”
Specifically, the resolution names “ongoing backlogs in permit approvals, the lack of transparency in the federal permitting process, and ongoing court challenges” as problems that jeopardize West Virginia coal jobs.
In a vote of 2-1, Hutchinson opposed the resolution.
“I’m all in favor of coal miners and putting people to work, but I’m not in favor of streamlining regulations,” she said, citing safety concerns.