CAMERON - U.S. Rep. David McKinley said he supports the burgeoning natural gas industry, but drilling companies must strive to do things correctly as they extract natural gas from the area.
McKinley, R-Wheeling, on Monday toured the 268-acre farm of Cameron residents Philip and Deborah Kittle. Drilling has yet to begin on their property, but a 300-foot by 300-foot pad on which wells will be drilled is in place.
"We are proponents of the oil and gas industry, but we want it done right," Deborah Kittle told McKinley. "We may have signed that lease, but at the end of the day, it's still our property."
The Kittles said Chevron Corp. now holds the lease they originally signed with Tri-Energy Holdings. Tri-Energy assigned their lease to AB Resources, and Chevron last year took over the Marshall and Ohio County operations from AB Resources.
"I do believe Chevron is going to do it and do it right," said Philip Kittle.
Deborah Kittle said she keeps an active eye on the workers when they are doing anything on her land. Even though actual drilling has yet to commence, she said construction of the road leading to the well pad and the well pad itself are major projects in their own right.
"They now understand that whenever you come to our farm, it is not going to be, 'do whatever you want,'" she said.
Calls to San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron seeking comment were not returned Monday.
While touring the site with the Kittles, McKinley told them he was impressed with their tenacity and knowledge of the drilling plans for their property.
He said this is an example of how landowners should deal with gas companies.
"Just like the Kittles have said, you have to make sure it is done properly," he said.
McKinley said he wants to see as many West Virginians working for gas drillers as possible, noting he has supported additional funding for training at community colleges for workers.
Some who are concerned about the ecological impact on natural gas drilling want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take a stronger stand on the drilling and fracking process, with some even asking for federal regulators to halt fracking altogether.
As a critic of some EPA policies, McKinley emphasized Monday that he is "not trying to do away with the EPA," noting he wants the organization to formulate strategy based on science instead of emotion.
"We don't want a one-size-fits-all," he added, noting that mountainous West Virginia should not be regulated under the exact same rules as flat land states such as Oklahoma and Texas.
McKinley co-founded the bipartisan Marcellus Shale Caucus to tackle concerns about the rapidly growing gas drilling industry. He said he will take the experience gained during his Monday visit back to Washington, D.C. to report to his fellow representatives.