Frequently Asked Questions

Bethany College has entered into an agreement with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation that allows drilling for natural gas on non-campus lands owned by the College. The agreement is the result of three years of careful study and negotiation to ensure that the process is completed in an efficient and responsible manner. As part of the College’s ongoing commitment to provide members of the Bethany community with accurate and timely information, listed below are answers to a variety of frequently asked questions.

What is Marcellus shale?
Marcellus shale, or Marcellus Formation, is an organic-rich black rock unit located throughout the Appalachian basin, including West Virginia. It contains extensive pockets of natural gas that, when extracted, provide resources experts believe are sufficient to supply the United States with high-quality energy for many years.

What is the Chesapeake Energy Corporation?
Formed in 1989, Chesapeake Energy Corporation is the second-largest producer of natural gas, a Top 15 producer of oil and natural gas liquids and the most active driller of new wells in the U.S. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the company's operations are focused on discovering and developing unconventional natural gas and oil fields onshore in the U.S.

What is involved in the drilling process?
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a proven extraction process designed to allow for the efficient and safe removal of natural gas from deep shale formations. For specific details on the process and recent technological advances utilized by Chesapeake Energy Corporation, please find a fact sheet located here.  

Where is the Bethany College natural gas drilling located?
Drilling will occur on College-owned lands along Route 88 North outside the Town limits of Bethany, W.Va.

What precautions have been taken to mitigate potential environmental and quality-of-life effects?
Bethany College continues to give the safety and well-being of its community top priority in any of its land-use decisions. The College recognizes that water quality in relation to gas drilling is a critical concern for many individuals. While the campus and Town of Bethany’s water is supplied through the Ohio County Public Service Department located near Wheeling, W.Va., we maintain our commitment to insuring that area waterways remain unpolluted. State regulations protecting groundwater are in place, as well as requirements insuring that wells are constructed with multiple layers of protective steel casing surrounded by cement specially designed to safeguard freshwater aquifers. Through careful consideration, the College and Chesapeake Energy Corporation have agreed to a location and project specifications that will limit any potential impact on the community. The site pad is located in a large, unoccupied field surrounded by forest and rolling hills that provide a natural buffer. All necessary precautions have been taken to minimize any potential impact to neighboring property holders and the Bethany community. Bethany College and Chesapeake Energy Corporation are committed to insuring that all procedural, environmental and safety regulations are consistently met. Learn more here.

Why did Bethany College agree to undertake this project?
Recent advancements in drilling technology have made it possible to more efficiently complete Marcellus shale gas extractions, and growing energy demands are making safe and effective gas drilling increasingly critical.

Bethany College has thoroughly explored all aspects of Marcellus Shale drilling and has performed extensive due diligence on Chesapeake Energy Corporation. As a large landowner, Bethany has a responsibility to be an effective steward of its resources and the environment the College continually seeks to protect, while also utilizing its resources for the good of the greater community in relation to the significant economic and energy contributions the agreement will potentially yield.

This resulting agreement is the product of three years of careful feasibility study and research, always with the College’s core values and Master Plan — which consistently provided the broad institutional perspective needed to guide all decisions concerning Bethany College — in mind.

How does this decision relate to the College’s commitment to environmental responsibility?
Bethany College consistently seeks to further its mission to serve as a leader in environmental stewardship. As a long-time large landowner, Bethany College has historically utilized its natural resources, including operating College-owned coal mines in the Town of Bethany through the 1940s and in recent times allowing timbering on College-owned property. The agreement with Chesapeake Energy Corporation will allow the College to responsibly manage the potential economic and educational gains provided by its resource ownership to the greatest advantage of the institution while being good stewards of the environment. Learn more about hydraulic fracturing from the EPA here.  

What will be done in the event of a drilling-related emergency?
In addition to its existing emergency management plan, the College has developed a detailed course of action that specifically addresses a potential Marcellus shale crisis. The Marcellus shale emergency safety and communications procedure has been formed in close cooperation with the Bethany College Campus Safety and Security Department, Bethany College Physical Plant, the Town of Bethany Emergency Services and the Brooke County Emergency Management Agency.

What are the terms of the agreement?
Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed by either party.

How can I find out more?
Bethany College will continue to monitor and update the public on relevant issues regarding its agreement with Chesapeake Energy Corporation and the Marcellus shale natural gas extraction occurring on its property.

To read more about Marcellus shale drilling and the viewpoints associated with natural gas exploration, please visit the links below:

www.post-gazette.com/pg/11310/1187594-113.stm

www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/us/27gas.html?scp=5&sq=natural%20gas&st=cse

www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/opinion/l06gas.html?_r=2

www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/us/26gas.html?_r=2

www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/07/01/natural_gas_bubble_report_market_tinkering_or_shoddy_reporting.html

theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/552173/Natural-Gas-Liquids-Lead-to-New-Plants.html?nav=5282

www.news-register.net/page/content.detail/id/553857/Water-Tests-Stressed-Before--After-Drilling.html

online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398462932810874.html

blogs.cfr.org/levi/2011/06/27/is-shale-gas-a-ponzi-scheme/

For ongoing coverage of energy-related issues in the Ohio Valley, visit:
theintelligencer.net/page/category.detail/nav/5280/State-of-the-Valley.html

Please contact the Office of Communications at officeofcommunications@bethanywv.edu with further questions.