Last night, Elisia and I attended a meeting of the West Virginia Legislature’s Select Committee on Marcellus Shale, which was held in the Robert C. Byrd auditorium in Clarksburg, WV.  This was the 3rd and last meeting for the Committee members to hear from their constituents before writing rules that will (hopefully) better regulate this controversial “new” mining technique.

Since you are reading this blog on, you already know we moved to West Virginia and bought this land to live our dream.  We found a magic slice of ‘almost heaven’, then, with plenty of sweat, tears and literal blood, we built a house using recycled construction materials.  We planted an organic garden, started raising chickens and goats, are planning to convert to solar and hydro-electric energy, and – because this land is so beautiful, clean and peaceful – we encouraged our kids and grand kids to join us here.

Now our dream is becoming a nightmare after we recently learned we are situated on top of the geologic formation known as “Marcellus shale.”

Lately, in the past 12 months or so, we’ve seen strange vehicles driving up and down Rt 20, the nearest 2 lane road. Some of those trucks belong to Haliburton – which caused us to think something not-so-good must be happening.

Then, a couple of months ago, we learned that the coal, oil and gas industry has been “fracking” all over this area.  Fracking, according to the website, is “short for hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. It is the process of injecting frack fluid, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, at high pressure into shale to fracture the rock, thereby releasing trapped natural gas.”

If you want to learn more about hydraulic fracturing you should watch the documentary Gasland, written and directed by Josh Fox.

In the meantime, I am certain we will be blogging much more on the subject of fracking, especially since it has become a major problem for the health and well being of our family, community and environment.

For this blog, we want to relate what happened at the WV Legislature’s Select Committee on Marcellus Shale last night:

We arrived at RCB High School about an hour and 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the meeting.  The parking lot was full of trucks and cars with out-of-state license plates — Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and so on.  There were about 75-100 people — mostly men — in the line to sign-up for a 2 minute speaking slot.  Hundreds more — again, the majority of them were men — were hanging around in small groups of 4 or 5, outside the building and in the corridor.

Many of the men reminded us of bouncers in a strip-club or extras in an episode of ‘The Sopranos.’ They were out-of-shape thugs, clad in polo-style shirts and khaki colored slacks – complete with a bit of belly overlaping their belts.  We felt inimidated walking through the pack of oil and gas industry supporters — identified as such by virtue of the little blue sticker they were all wearing on their chests.

After signing the speakers sheet, we enered the auditorium and found two empty rows.  We knew the seats would soon be filled by all of those muscle men outside so we ‘reserved’ a few empty seats for our progressive, land-owner friends who still standing in line.

When everyone was finally seated, the meeting was called into order and the committee members introduced themselves. The first speaker, a Mr. Corky DeMarco, was called to the mic.  DeMarco, the executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA), betrayed the industry’s true agenda for this meeting when he ordered his goons — er, I mean supporters of hydrofracking (who coincidently work for the industry) — to stand up, whoop-it-up and be counted.  DeMarco’s prank prompted a warning from the committee chair and boos from the citizen landowners.

What followed was a choreographed effort to manipulate, intimidate and monopolize the public input process.

Mr. DeMarco was the first of hundreds of speakers from the oil and gas industry.  Drillers, their employees and industry contractors showed up en masse and early to sign up for individual,  2 minute speaking slots.  Then each of them, in turn, used their allotted time to read their 2 minute portion of what was, in the aggregate, one long advertisement in support of hydraulic fracturing.

They knew about the 2 minute rule, and because it did not suit their purpose, they simply devised a conspiracy to get around it.  They cheated.

If the oil and gas industry is willing to execute such a dishonest scheme in front of the committee members, the press and the public, what makes anyone believe they will ever comply with ANY rule or regulation the WV Legislature enacts?

The oil and gas industry’s pre-planned cheating o get around the public input meeting rule, is just more evidence of the industry’s usual practice:  That they will say anything and do anything to get their way.   That they have no concern for the health of WV citizens, the quality of the air we breathe, the water we need to live, the wildlife that makes WV such a magical place to live.  The only thing that matters to them is making a quick buck.

In fact, the pro-fracking message broadcast by all those industry aligned speakers amounted to this:  Fracking is safe, natural gas is clean, it offers WV an unprecedented chance to benefit from an economic boom.

Unfortunately, we know for a fact that the message is a lie.  If extracting WV’s natural resources was a good thing, this state would be in great shape economically and in every other way.  Instead, compared to other states, we are dead last in education, life expectancy, economic prosperity and infant mortality.

As Bobby Kennedy recently said in his speech on Blair Mountain, WV has become akin to a banana republic.  It’s time for regular citizens to stand up to energy industry bullies.  The only way we will win is by standing strong together.