WELLSBURG - The president of Eagle Manufacturing told the Brooke County Commission Tuesday he's trying to spread the word about opportunities and dissuade fears related to the natural gas drilling industry.
Joe Eddy, president and chief executive officer for Eagle, said as chairman of the West Virginia Manufacturing Association, he's attempting to spread positive information about natural gas drilling.
"The industry has very responsible companies that work in it and also irresponsible parties that work in it. I think for the most part, the irresponsible ones were weeded out a long time ago," he said.
County Commissioner Norma Tarr told Eddy she was impressedwhile listening to Eddy's talk at a forum last week by the number of casings used in natural gas wells to prevent groundwater from being contaminated during drilling.
Eddy said at least three layers of concrete and two layers of steel normally are used in the drill casings.
Some environmental scientists are concerned about natural gas drillers' use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a method that involves blasting water, sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, into the underground Marcellus shale to release the gas.
Some have linked it to the contamination of groundwater, release of methane that occurs naturally in the ground and seismic activity.
Groups such as the West Virginia Surface Rights Owners Association have said upper groundwater used for drinking can be contaminated by lower groundwater containing salt, sulfur and other undesirable material if the casings aren't installed properly or their installation is complicated by underground pockets.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a study to determine the practice's impact on groundwater in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Texas and Colorado, including areas where contamination has been reported.
But the Marcellus shale also is believed to be a major source of natural gas, enough to provide Americans for many years with a natural resource that's said to be more environmentally friendly than most others.
Eddy told the commissioners while he believes a balance of electricity, coal and natural gas is needed, the resource also can help to revive the area's manufacturing industry.
He noted Royal Dutch Shell's has chosen Monaca, Pa., as the site for an ethane cracking plant, a facility that converts ethane, a byproduct of natural gas, into ethylene, a chemical used in producing plastics. But Eddy said ethylene can be further developed into polyethylene, a material used in the production of plastics used by Eagle, at smaller facilities. He said in 2010 plastic products accounted for more than 50 percent of sales for the business, which produces assorted containers for hazardous materials and various safety materials.
Eddy said it's difficult to say whether his company is supplying such materials to the natural gas industry as it deals directly with distributors.
Commission President Marty Bartz said industry officials also have cited various support services, from food distributors to laundry services, as service-related businesses that may serve workers at natural gas drilling operations.
"Someone with an entrepreneurial mind has great opportunities right now," Eddy agreed.
Asked about Eagle's expansion to the former Banner Fiberboard property on state Route 2, Eddy said crews have moved about 30 truckloads of product from the company's 24th Street facility to the site, which will offer trucks convenient access to and from the highway.
He said ultimately the company would like to establish a finished goods warehouse, for all three of its product lines, there.
In other business, the commission:
- Agreed to hire Mansuetto Roofing of Martins Ferry to replace the roof of the newer section of the Brooke County Courthouse at a cost of $101,480, the sole bid submitted for the project.
The project will be funded partly by an $80,000 grant awarded by the state Courthouse Facilities Improvement Council. Another $80,000 grant awarded by the group was used to fund the $106,000 replacement of the roof over the original section of the courthouse a few years ago.
- Heard from Bernie Hart of Northview Road, Wellsburg, who said road crews have dumped too much slag on the road near her home, making it uneven and difficult to navigate, and damaged a culvert she had installed there to address runoff.
Bartz said maintenance of the roads isn't the county's responsibility but he will approach officials with the West Virginia Division of Highways about the matter. Fellow commissioner Tim Ennis said he would speak with local legislators about her issues.
- Heard from Deborah Crouse of Washington, Pa., who said she is leading a grassroots effort to establish an independent living center that would instruct individuals with disabilities in becoming more independent in their own homes.
Crouse said there is public funding for such an endeavor, and she plans to hold a meeting on at noon June 27 at the Ohio County Public Library to gage interest.