The natural gas company already has several producing natural gas wells in the park and adjacent wildlife management area.
The company has assured the Logan County Commission that it plans to keep its construction and drilling away from the picnic areas and other areas of high traffic inside the park. The company said it will keep out of sight and will work along ridges in the outer areas of Chief Logan State Park.
Cabot’s plans call for the construction of a gravel roadbed that will be available to the park and will connect the Earl Ray Tomblin Conference Center and Lodge with the main part of the park. Currently, there is no road access through the park from the convention center to the main picnic and recreation areas of the park. The park will be able to use the roadbed as the foundation for a vehicular road between the lodge and the main portion of the park, a release from the company said.
Cabot announced its plans in an exclusive interview with The Logan Banner on Wednesday.
“Chief Logan is one of the most used state parks on a daily basis, but the lodge has the lowest overnight occupancy level of any lodge in the park system,” Tom Liberatore, Cabot’s eastern regional manager, said. “Connecting the lodge with the rest of the park should help it attract more overnight guests and fulfill its potential.”
Cabot said it plans to submit permit applications to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in the coming week for two sets of five wells each. The wells, according to the release, will be positioned in the outlying areas of the park so that they will not be near current or planned recreation facilities. This includes the outdoor swimming pool and the new convention center and lodge.
“We intend to drill these wells in the most sensitive manner as possible, following all appropriate government regulations,” Liberatore said. “We also will work with the park superintendent and community leaders to assure that the wells are placed in a fashion that is complementary to the operations of the park.”
Cabot said it plans to drill for natural gas under mineral rights owned by the Lawson Heirs, Inc., dating back to the 1800s. The state accepted the deed for the park’s land in 1960 with the knowledge that it did not include the mineral rights. In fact, the deed includes very specific provisions for drilling gas and oil.
The deed from the Lawson Heirs, Inc., to the Logan Civic Association on file at the Logan County Courthouse reads: “There is excepted from this conveyance all oil and gas, or either, within and underlying the lands hereby conveyed, with the right to search for, explore, operate for, drill, produce and market oil, gas and gasoline, together with the rights of way and servitude for the laying of pipe lines, building telephone and telegraph lines, structures, plants houses, drips, tanks, stations, electric power lines, meters, and regulators, and all other rights and privileges necessary and incident to and convenient for the economic operation of excepted oil and gas, or either, and the right excepted and reserved and the care of the excepted products.”
The Logan Civic Association was a not-for-profit entity that facilitated the purchase of the Chief Logan State Park property. The property was transferred from the Lawson Heirs in November 1960 to the Logan Civic Association and the state took possession on Dec. 29 of that same year. The initial property transferred under this arrangement was for 3,271.5 acres.
“Because of those provisions in the deed, Chief Logan is unique,” Liberatore said. “Drilling in Chief Logan will not lead to wholesale drilling in other state parks.
“We recognize that the park is highly regarded here in Logan and in surrounding counties. We feel the same way about the park. Our plans for the park are to be as non-disruptive as possible. We currently have activities around the perimeter of the park. The activity we’re proposing to do is designed to access the park from the perimeter, on the ridges, away from current activities and facilities in the park. We believe when we’re done we’ll create opportunities to enhance the park by providing access to parts of the park that aren’t currently accessible to the general public.”
Liberatore said the drilling won’t disrupt activities in the park.
“We’ll work during periods of the least activity in the park,” Liberatore said. “Our activities are going to be far enough away from the main use of the park that no one will even know we’re in there. We’re going to build access roads from outside the park in and from existing wells we have along the perimeter of the park.”
Liberatore said drilling in the park will benefit Logan County and West Virginia.
The state will receive 5 percent of all gross revenue from the wells in the form of severance tax, and Logan County will receive 4.5 percent in the form of ad valorem tax. In 2006, the release said, Cabot paid $10.5 million in severance taxes and $6 million in ad valorem taxes to counties throughout West Virginia.
Several operating gas wells are already located in the park and the nearby wildlife management area, including six operated by Cabot, whose eastern regional office is located in Charleston.
The press release said Cabot has invested nearly $500 million in West Virginia and the projection for new investment into the state in 2007 is in excess of $175 million.
Liberatore said Cabot uses local contractors and the work inside the park could produce jobs.
“Cabot has seen an increase of jobs over the last four or five years as we’ve ramped up our drilling effort,” Liberatore said. “As we add wells, we do bring on permanent jobs. We currently have 160-plus employees in the state of West Virginia. These wells will be operated by our Danville operating group and we employ about 40-45 people out of that Danville operating group.”
Liberatore said Cabot could drill as many as 35 wells in Chief Logan State Park.
“We expect to submit permits for 10 wells,” Liberatore said.
Liberatore said Cabot intends to be a good neighbor to Logan County.
“We haven’t determined what we’re going to do, but we do plan on stepping up our involvement here,” Liberatore said. “You will see Cabot becoming more active locally.”
Liberatore said the first wells could be drilled as early as late winter or early spring. Pipe lines will be buried under ground and not visible.
“We would target to get whatever level of work needs to be done before Memorial Day weekend, which frames the usage period of the park so that we’re not causing anyone any inconvenience,” Liberatore said. “We don’t expect that you’ll even see our drilling rigs.
“This is actually an exciting project. It’s exciting for Cabot. It’s exciting for the county. I think it’s exciting for the citizens of Logan County and the users of the park as we create more opportunity through the use of these roads once they’re built to access the park.”