By CASEY JUNKINS
A major amount of excavation is involved in creating a natural gas drilling well pad, and companies are now required by state law to reclaim the sites they disturb to provide for a healthy environment.
Energy companies were asked, Drilling for natural gas tears up the land for a short period of time. How well do our local energy companies do at reclaiming the land after a drilling rig leaves so that the area's residents can enjoy the Ohio Valley's natural beauty?
Chesapeake Energy, like all other companies operating in West Virginia, said that state law requires drillers to put the land back into its original state after drilling is completed.
"When we apply for a well permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, an erosion and sediment control plan is provided for all aspects of construction activities," said Stacey Brodak, senior director of corporate development for Chesapeake. "The Horizontal Well Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 14, 2011, includes various timelines for reclamation to occur, and certain construction standards required. Chesapeake complies with those guidelines on our sites."
Q: Drilling for natural gas tears up the land for a short period of time. How well do our local energy companies do at reclaiming the land after a drilling rig leaves so that the area's residents can enjoy the Ohio Valley's natural beauty?
A: The companies are required to follow state law that sets specific timelines for when reclamation must occur. Drilling sites in Pennsylvania that already have been reclaimed show no signs of the drilling activity other than piping at the wellhead.
Kathy Cosco, communications director for the DEP, said a well site does not need to be completely restored to how it looked before drilling, but there are clear reclamation requirements in the new legislation.
"The operator is required to grade or terrace the land and plant, seed or sod areas disturbed in accordance with the erosion and sediment control plan," she said.
According to the new West Virginia law, a drilling operator must - within six months after a horizontal well is drilled - "fill all the pits and impoundments that are not required or allowed by state or federal law." This provision is for a single well pad; for drilling pads containing multiple horizontal wells, partial reclamation must start once the pad is finished.
The law states that within six months after a well has produced oil or gas - or after the operator would plug a dry hole that yielded no oil or gas - the operator must remove all production and storage structures, supplies and equipment and any oil, salt water and debris and fill any remaining excavations.
West Virginia also requires drillers to reclaim the area of land disturbed in drilling, fracking or producing the horizontal well.
"Reclamation plans and methods vary from site to site based on topography. The landowner has input, but is limited to vegetation (type of seeding/plants) that are used to re-vegetate the location," Brodak added.