Due to air quality and drinking water contamination concerns, the Morgantown City Council voted 6-1 to ban hydraulic fracturing within a mile of the city limits. The controversy began in early May when residents discovered that Northeast Natural Energy was drilling upriver from the area’s drinking water intake. However, the fear that hydraulic fracturing could contaminate the drinking water is unsubstantiated because there has been not one documented case of this occurring. The well is actually a little under a mile outside of the city of Morgantown, but under a provision of state code, the city has authority to extend its jurisdiction up to a mile.
NNE’s President Mike John addressed the council and stressed that the company has taken efforts to not only comply with the state’s regulations in receiving a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection, but has even accommodated the additional requests of the Morgantown Utility Board, which provides the drinking water for the region. He also asked whether the city would compensate him for the $7 million he invested in its site, based upon good faith interactions with the city.
Only Councilman Charles Byrer voted against the ban. He believes the city will be “regretting this down the road” because of the “slippery slope” from a legal perspective and because of the huge amount of jobs and economic benefits that could have been gained from extracting shale gas outside of the city.