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One West Virginia County Tried to Break Its Dependence on the Energy Industry. It Was Overruled.

May 7, 2018


Ken Ward Jr.,

May 4, 2018-

Matt Wender’s vision for Fayette County begins with the New River Gorge. Whitewater rafters, hikers and mountain bikers congregate there every summer. Craft beer and artisan pizza are helping his home emerge as an outdoor tourism hub. Just upstream from the river, there’s another reality: A company called Danny Webb Construction Inc. pumps waste from natural gas drilling underground. Chloride, strontium, lithium and other markers of gas waste have been found in Wolf Creek, which flows into the river.

In the southeast corner of the county, developers of a 300-mile gas pipeline hope to turn a wooded, 130-acre plot into the site of a gas compressor station, a facility local leaders say would be noisy and would change the inviting nature of the area. Fayette County is more than 150 miles from the vast reserves in Northern West Virginia that fueled skyrocketing gas production over the past decade. But the infrastructure to support the drilling crisscrosses the state: new pipelines, a host of processing plants, compressor stations and — industry supporters hope — a new generation of sprawling chemical factories and manufacturing plants.

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