Company’s ‘behavior symbolic of the bullying nature of the industry’ says Barbara Volk
By Michael M. Barrick
Note: This is the seventh installment in a series about fracking, (hydraulic fracturing for natural gas), controversial because of its impact on public safety and health, as well as the environment.
WESTON, W.Va. – Three days after appearing before the Lewis County Board of Commissioners to express concerns about the public health and safety dangers associated with fracking – including aggressive driving by fracking company employees – Barbara Volk found herself being shoved through Weston’s main intersection by a Norte Oil and Gas Services truck. Norte is based in Jane Lew.
The accident occurred Thursday, Oct. 23 at about 9 a.m. According to a report filed with the Weston Police Department (WPD), Volk stated, “I was tailgated by a gas company truck on Rt. 33 as I was driving to town.” Volk was heading east, according to the report. She continued, “I stopped at the light in Weston at the junction of 33 & 19….The light turned green. Before I even had the time to put my foot on the clutch, the truck hit me and pushed me through the intersection. At some point, I stepped on the brakes. I steered toward the curb. The truck then sped past me and all I was able to see on the side was Norte.”
The driver of the truck, according to the WPD report, stated, “Didn’t realize I hit car or I would of stop (sic).” Police identified the driver as Kirk Smith. The truck is registered to BEO Service Group LLC in Williamsport, Pa.
Investigating for the WPD was Lt. R. M. Flanigan. According to Flanigan’s report, “Actions of the Driver that Contributed to the Crash” were “Following Too Closely” and Operated Veh(icle) in Eratic, Reckless or Careless Manner.” Furthermore, Flanigan checks that there were also two “Reckless/Careless/Hit and Run Type Offenses,” those being “Inattentive, Careless, Improper Driving” and “Hit and Run, Failure to Stop After Accident.”
Volk, who was transported by the Lewis County EMS to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital following the accident, said later that the event is “Behavior symbolic of the bullying nature of the industry.” She explained, “First, they come up fast without warning, then they bully you, then, when you don’t move fast enough, they just knock you out of the way. And when it is all over, they deny the whole thing.”
She added, “It is particularly ironic, seeing how I just warned the county commissioners about this.” Indeed, on Oct. 20, when speaking to the commissioners, Volk said, “Just this week on Rt. 33 I was overtaken by three gas company pick ups, two of which passed in a double yellow line. I was driving the speed limit and I can only guess what speed they were traveling. I no longer drive on Rt. 18 because of the number of close calls I have had with oil and gas pick ups and associated vehicles. I can’t avoid driving on Rt. 33.”
In his investigation of the accident, Flanigan noted that it was at the intersection of E. 2nd St. and Main St. in Weston. The distance on E. 2nd St. heading east through the intersection is unusually long, as trucks turning west on E. 2nd St. from Main St. must swing wide. As a result, traffic heading east must stop for the light further back than normal. Consequently, Volk’s car was pushed several feet through a dangerously long and busy intersection. There were witnesses, and Flanigan reports that a supervisor with Norte approached him and said he would get GPS coordinates on the trucks from the company’s Jane Lew office. Flanigan wrote, “Vehicle 2 (the truck driven by Smith) was located and checked for damage.” He observed that it “had sustained damage to the front chrome bumper and right head light fender metal.” Volk’s vehicle received damage to the bumper and trunk, according to Flanigan, though it is undergoing additional damage appraisal, Volk said.
According to its website, “Norte Oil & Gas Services, LLC, located in Jane Lew, WV & Gonzales, TX, is a transportation company that provides vacuum truck services that are necessary for construction, drilling, completion and production of natural gas wells in the Eagle Ford & Marcellus Shale regions.” It adds, “A top priority for Norte Oil & Gas Services, LLC is to improve the local community by providing work for local residents and by forming partnerships with local companies that are established in the area.” Norte officials in Jane Lew were not available for comment.
© Appalachian Chronicle, 2014.