The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
By Tara Lohan
An explosion at a nearby gas drilling well pad jostled John Pitcock awake around 4 a.m. Sunday morning.
Pitcock and his wife Diane moved with their sons from the Baltimore, MD, area to rural New Milton, WV, in Doddridge County nearly a decade ago to enjoy a quiet country life.
But when drilling companies began tapping the underlying Marcellus Shale in the area for natural gas reserves using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—their peaceful country life disappeared.
The Pitcocks have been plagued by noise, lights, dust, emissions and truck traffic after a neighbor leased his land to a drilling company, which has erected several well pads on the land adjacent to their property. Over the last year trees have been clear cut, miles of roads built through their rural neighborhood, and drilling has begun. On Friday, July 5, I visited their home and witnessed gas being flared from a well through the night—the light illuminated their front yard from a ridge top about 2,000 feet away.
John Pitcock reported that the well continued to flare through the next day and night and another well beside it was loudly venting gas on and off. What became a nuisance turned to a real fright during the early morning hours of Sunday as John describes:
The Pitcocks were initially told (after driving off their property to find employees working nearby and emergency response officials) that they needed to evacuate, but were later told it was optional and they could remain.
Since then conflicting reports have emerged about the number of workers injured and the severity of their injuries at the well pad, which is officially called the Hinterer 2H well on the Ruddy Alt pad and is operated by Antero Resources. The West Virginia Gazette-Mail reported at least seven injured and four or five workers were flown to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Doddridge County director of emergency services did not return phone calls as of publication. While the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, writing for the Gazette-Mail, David Gutman explained that this is not the first safety issue that Antero has had recently:
- Last August a spark at an Antero-owned well in Harrison County ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground, causing a fireball and a fire that burned for about an hour. Three workers were injured in that fire.
- DEP cited Antero for failure to maintain well control for that incident.
- DEP has cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. Those have been primarily environmental violations—for things like failing to prevent waste runoff, failure to report discharges and contaminating waterways.
- One violation, from Jan. 4, warned, "Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state."
- In June of last year Antero was drilling using water in Harrison County when they accidentally repressurized some old water wells, causing several geysers, one about 10 feet high, that flooded one nearby home and several garages.
- In March 2011, state regulators shut down an Antero gas well in Harrison County after mud contaminated with drilling chemicals spilled into a nearby stream.
John Pitcock says that he doesn’t think companies should be drilling in this manner in proximity to people’s homes.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING pages for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Lauren Wolahan
For the first time ever, the UN is building out a roadmap for curbing carbon pollution from agriculture. To take part in that process, a coalition of U.S. farmers traveled to the UN climate conference in Madrid, Spain this month to make the case for the role that large-scale farming operations, long criticized for their outsized emissions, can play in addressing climate change.
They're prepared from puréed acai berries — which are fruits grown in Central and South America — and served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, topped with fruit, nuts, seeds, or granola.
By Elliott Negin
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' recent decision to award the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to scientists who developed rechargeable lithium-ion batteries reminded the world just how transformative they have been. Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones or electric cars. But it's their potential to store electricity generated by the sun and the wind at their peak that promises to be even more revolutionary, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting the planet from the worst consequences of climate change.
The global population of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros has increased to 72 after four new calves were spotted in the past several months.