Most of West Virginia sits atop the vast, mile-deep Marcellus Shale gas reserves, and the drilling industry is in high gear throughout northern West Virginia.
Reaching the reserves requires deep, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies that the industry insists are safe. Many environmental groups and residents, however, are concerned about water pollution, road destruction and other quality of life issues.
Chesapeake Energy, which has a large presence in the region, hopes New Martinsville will reconsider.
Chesapeake believes existing regulations, its own best management practices and emergency rules requested by Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, acting as governor, "are able to provide the city with a level of comfort to address any environmental concerns they may have,'' said spokeswoman Stacey Brodak.
Wellsburg banned drilling within a mile of its borders, but City Council has since moved to repeal the ordinance. The cities of Lewisburg and Morgantown, meanwhile, are standing by similar ordinances.
Morgantown, however, is being sued by the driller it targeted. Northeast Natural Energy of Charleston is sinking wells along the Monongahela River, less than a mile from a drinking water intake. City leaders said they had no choice but to protect their water supply in the absence of strong state regulations.
A hearing on Northeast's request for a preliminary injunction preventing the city from enforcing its ordinance is set for Aug. 17 before Monongalia Circuit Judge Susan Tucker.