Charleston Daily Mail editorial: W.Va. cities should not ban prosperity

Rules on Marcellus Shale drilling should be based on facts, not fear

Appalachia along the Ohio River once had steel mills, aluminum plants and glass factories, all thanks to the cheap energy provided by coal and natural gas.

Most of those factories are gone, but not the natural gas. New drilling methods make it possible for the oil and gas industry to tap into the Marcellus shale formation to extract natural gas.

Matt Quinet, owner of Quinet’s Court Restaurant in New Martinsville, said the new gas boom has helped his community.

“These gas people have brought new life to this town,” Quinet said. “Before, it was almost like a ghost town.”

Business is so good that he bought a 10-room motel in nearby Paden City.

Unfortunately, New Martinsville and three other cities in West Virginia have banned drilling within their city limits. Their concern is over fears of water well contamination, but for now that seems to be based more on fear than on fact.

The New Martinsville ban is particularly embarrassing since that town has been mentioned as one of the possible sites for a billion-dollar cracker, a plant that would convert natural gas into feedstock for the petrochemical industry.

New Martinsville’s town council will have a final vote on repealing the ban on Sept. 5.

When one-third of a state’s economy comes from transfer payments – welfare, Social Security, food stamps and the like – a state should not treat business so cavalierly.

Town officials have become inpatient with the Legislature, which is studying several Marcellus Shale regulatory issues before enacting new laws.

Carefully considered action at the state level may be appropriate.

But until that happens and absent proof of any real threat to the public, these towns all should rescind their bans. People need jobs, not handouts from Washington.

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