Natural gas drilling in southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky is the subject of a new radio documentary on WMMT, Appalshop’s public radio service in Whitesburg. “Fractured Appalachia” is a one-hour program that examines legal and environmental facets of the region’s burgeoning new energy industry.
Natural gas extraction has grown rapidly in Central Appalachian in recent years. New technology has enabled drillers to reach major resources that were formerly uneconomic. As a result, natural gas has become a big part of the region’s energy economy. In 2010 southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky combined to produce at least $6 billion worth of gas, and the reserves now in the ground could support this level of production for a century.
This rapid increase in natural gas recovery has affected many landowners in the area. Some are concerned about damage to their property from wells, roads and pipelines. Others question the way gas royalty payments are distributed.
WMMT producers Jonathan Hootman and Rich Kirby interviewed landowners, gas company land agents, company officials, geologists, and attorneys.
“ We talked to people across the WMMT listening area,” says Kirby. “ The concerns we heard about were not exactly like those in some other areas — we don’t have the same pollution issues here that occur in the Marcellus shale area farther north. We heard about surface and water damage, about the importance of getting good legal advice, and about the ‘forced pooling’ controversy in Virginia. We tried to reflect these concerns in our work.”
“Fractured Appalachia” will air on WMMT, 88.7 FM, at 8 a.m. for seven successive weekdays from Monday, Jan. 30, through Tuesday, Feb. 7. The program will also air as a one-hour version on Monday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. The work can be heard online at www.fracturedappalachia.org, a website which includes links to many informational resources on natural gas issues.