Wheeling Community Expresses Concerns at WJU’s Public Discussion on Fracking

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Wheeling Jesuit University hosted a public discussion Saturday at 1 p.m. concerning the hot button issue of fracking under the Ohio River.

Gastar Exploration recently bid to drill natural gas wells underneath the Ohio River in Marshall County. The decision to drill under the river has brought concerns and questions about safety to the forefront. WJU’s Appalachian Institute decided those questions needed to be answered at a public discussion.

Mike McCown, the Vice President of Gastar, was on hand to assure all parts of their operation will be safely completed.

“As an industry I’m convinced we can do this safe and efficiently,” said McCown. “We’ve demonstrated that over the last several years my company personally and the industry in general.”

Dr. Ben Stout, a professor of biology at Wheeling Jesuit, doesn’t agree with drilling underneath the river for fears that it will undo the progress made in the local environment.

“We’ve come a long way, we don’t want to go back,” said Stout. “One of the reason is the Clean Water Act. Another reason is the Clean Air Act. No industry should get exemptions from this and if it’s that profitable, why should they? Why would they need to?”

Both Stout and McCown agreed an agreement should be reached to capitalize on the financial impact of the fracking industry. 

“The state will continue to look for ways to generate revenue and I think this is an excellent opportunity for the state of West Virginia to generate significant revenue that we all need to help our state,” said McCown.

“We want them to make money and be good community partners and good economic partners and go to our churches and attend our schools and be part of the community but we can’t let go of everything we’ve accomplished,” said Stout.

The forum was obviously an opportunity for the public to have their voices heard before a final decision is made.

“What would you say to a room full of our and your grandchildren who are asking how your presence and your fracking under the Ohio River will better their world and their access to clean water and air as well as to instill a sustainable way of life that allows them to live in harmony with nature and not against it,” said one Wheeling man during the public discussion.

“I live there so that’s my thing. You guys are all making money and I’m not but I live here and I will probably die here and I’d like to die healthy so think of us when you do this, said one Wheeling woman during the public discussion.

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