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Fracking Ban Ok'd in Morgantown, West Virginia

Jun 22, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

Morgantown, West Virginia is the latest city to impose a ban on hydraulic fracturing.  Last night, the Morgantown City Council voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance that forbids horizontal gas drilling with hydraulic fracturing within one mile of city limits.

Morgantown is the second West Virginia city to enact a fracking ban. This past April, the Council of Wellsburg approved an ordinance that forbids natural gas drilling within the city limits, and further bans fracking within five miles of the city limits.

According to a report from, some Morgantown residents started pushing for the fracking ban earlier this spring, when it was learned a natural gas driller had begun operating wells just upriver from the area’s drinking water intake on the Monongahela River.  Prior to the vote, the council heard from those for and against the ordinance.

“It’s going to put a strain on your volunteer fire departments, your EMS, your law enforcement. All of this is going to have to be doubled and tripled. For the people of Morgantown and their best interest, I hope you guys make the right decision," said Ed Wade, a resident of adjacent Wetzel County, an area where fracking is prevalent.

The president of the Independent Oil and Gas Association also addressed the council, warning that the industry could punish Morgantown economically if it instituted a ban.

“If a city says there shouldn’t be drilling and doesn’t support the industry, it’s going to be hard for industry members to support that city, to do commerce in that city,” Mike McCown said. “That’s a decision the city’s going to have to take seriously, in my opinion.”

McCown also read a letter from acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin urging the city to keep its ban within city limits.

But Morgantown Mayor William Byrne said just before the vote that the city was being forced to take the action because West Virginia lacks effective fracking legislation. 

“We do not do this with a lot of gusto," he said.

According to a report from, the West Virginia Legislature proved unable to pass a fracking bill during this year’s 60-day regular session. Just last week, a legislative task force was formed to try to formulate workable rules.  The governor has said he would call a special legislative session if lawmakers come up with a bill.

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