Marcellus Shale impact still large in Wetzel Co. - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Marcellus Shale impact still large in Wetzel Co.

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Wetzel County has always been a producer of natural gas, but a boom in the Marcellus Shale gas drilling really put it on the map for the Mountain State.

Since 2008, the county at the base of the Northern Panhandle saw an increase in drilling by 6,000 percent.

A recent collaborative research effort looking into the shale drilling was released to show the effects of the oil and gas industry on West Virginia, among other surrounding states.

The Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, of which the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy participated in, released case studies April 10, which examined the impacts of shale oil and gas drilling in four active communities.

Read the case studies HERE.

The study looked at Carroll County in Ohio, Greene and Tioga counties in Pennsylvania and Wetzel County in West Virginia.

West Virginia is unique in that companies have been taking actions to sever surface rights from mineral rights, meaning some individuals do not own the mineral right so their land. This means some residents don't have control over fracking on their property and are limited in being compensated from the oil and gas companies.

"Overall, the impact is unclear with how much royalty payments are flowing in," said Sean O'Leary, fiscal policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. "Local officials will note jobs in gas industry are going to out of state workers."

Unemployment in the county remains 3 percent higher than the state average at over 10 percent.

"There hasn't been a population boom as you see in other counties (including Pennsylvania and Ohio drilling counties)," O'Leary said. "The population continues to decline – you're also not seeing new home constructions, sales, real estate prices are the same."

The community in Wetzel County was, according to the WVCBP, still impacted by the industry in the fact that officials were caught off-guard when it came to town, so to speak.

O'Leary said his best advice for communities would be proper planning, as Wetzel County has a task force of county leaders to discuss road damage from heavy truck traffic as well as other primary concerns.

By promising more jobs, the oil and gas industry hasn't delivered in many cases and Wetzel County continues to suffer from the double-digit unemployment despite having some of the highest natural gas production in the region, the WVBPC said.

"In Wetzel County the Marcellus shale boom has brought some growth but less development," said Ted Boettner, executive director of the WVCBP. "This highlights why it is so important for communities to enact policies that ensure that they are better off, not worse off, after the drilling subsides."