Morgantown Official Backpedals After Drilling Ban Overturned

It’s always interesting to watch politicians operate after a humiliating defeat. Politicians’ DNA does not allow them to simply look inward and recognize their own errors. They always look outward and blame others, or in some cases, declare the defeat was a good thing and accomplished just what they wanted all along! I refer to the situation in Morgantown, WV. In June, Morgantown City Council members voted to ban hydraulic fracturing both inside and up to one mile outside their borders (see this MDN story). This threatened a pair of Marcellus Shale wells being drilled about a mile from city lines. The result? The driller, Northeast Energy, sued the city. Last week a judge overturned the city’s ban and now hydraulic fracturing will commence (see this MDN story). All told, Northeast probably lost about a month out of their original drilling schedule (they continued drilling anyway, the ban specifically prohibited fracking and not drilling per se).

So what does the Morgantown City Manager say about all of this?

City manager Terrence Moore says the city’s strategy in all of this was to find out what powers they did and didn’t have when it comes to regulating drilling, and now they’re ready to move forward.

A judge said on Friday that the power to regulate drilling companies who use the fracking method to drill for natural gas in Marcellus shale deposits belongs to the state DEP, and not Morgantown, which makes the ban invalid.

This clears the way for a company already drilling in the Morgantown area to continue their operations.

Moore says now the city will do all they can to work with everyone involved in these drilling processes to make the best possible situation.

"Our position is what I’ve pretty well just discussed: visiting with council, reviewing options.  However, at this point, our interest is to work with everybody involved, all the stakeholders at the state level, Northeast Energy, et cetera, so that we can get to a good place," says Moore.*

Er, right. The strategy was to push the legal boundaries and find out whether or not the city actually had the power to do what they did, right? And now that they know they don’t have that right, that’s just the outcome they hoped for—clears the way, now we’ll work with the drilling company, we’ll get to a good place, blah blah blah… What a load!

The only thing accomplished by city council’s foolish action was to put more money in lawyers’ hands and delay the drilling process by a month. Instead of continuing to work with Northeast as they originally had been, city council chose to create a hostile atmosphere for Northeast. Hopefully the voters of Morgantown will remember that at the next election cycle.

*WDTV Channel 5 (Aug 15, 2011) – Morgantown City Officials Weigh in on Overturned Fracking Ban