Political jurisdictions around the world — from New York to Scotland — are banning hydraulic fracturing (fracking) because of the public health risks.
But West Virginia is so beholden to the fossil fuels industry that the state motto could easily be changed from monatri semper liberi (mountaineers are always free) to montani inserviens corporatum statum (mountaineers are subservient to the corporate state.)
Let’s take the case of Hoppy Kercheval, West Virginia’s top ranked radio talk show host.
Kercheval’s show, Talkline, is broadcast Monday through Friday from 10 am to 12 noon on the MetroNews radio network.
MetroNews is owned by industrialist and Republican politician John Raese.
Raese is president and chief executive officer of Greer Industries, a steel and limestone producer.
His business interests also include The Morgantown Dominion Post, the West Virginia Radio Corporation, which owns 15 radio stations, along with the Metronews radio network.
Raese is a right leaning Republican who favors, for example, eliminating the minimum wage.
Raese has lost campaigns to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate in 1984, 2006, 2010 and 2012.
Kercheval and his wife contributed $4,800 to Raese’s 2010 Senate campaign.
While Kercheval strives for a balanced show when it comes to social issues, on issues of political economy, Talkline often morphs into an unabashed platform for runaway corporatism.
Take, for example, Kercheval’s February 4, 2015 Talkline show.
In one segment, Kercheval, broadcasting from the state capitol building in Charleston, introduced the subject of “forced pooling.”
Unlike New York or Scotland, where fracking has been banned, West Virginia has an open door policy.
Kercheval rarely has guests on his show opposed to fracking.
He often has guests promoting the fossil fuel industry.
Under “forced pooling” legislation that will be up in the West Virginia legislature this month, a reluctant West Virginia mineral holder will be forced to lease their mineral rights to the natural gas corporation seeking to frack the reluctant holdout’s land.
To discuss the legislation, Kercheval had on two gas industry lobbyists — the two lobbyists who have spent the last 18 months drafting the “forced pooling” legislation.
Kercheval introduced one of the guests as “Kevin Ellis, chair of the WVONGA board.”
Kercheval didn’t identify what WVONGA stood for.
WVONGA stands for the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. (WVONGA has marinated Raese’s West Virginia’s Radio Corporation with cash, including sponsoring a weekly radio show titled — Inside Shale — the Voice of the Industry, which plays on five West Virginia radio stations.)
At the end of the interview, Kercheval said Ellis was with Antero Resources. Antero Resources is an independent exploration and production company engaged in the exploitation, development and acquisition of natural gas, and oil properties located in the Appalachian Basin.
Kercheval identified the other guest as “Jim McKinney, past president of IOGA.”
Kercheval didn’t say what IOGA stands for. IOGA stands for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia.
At the end of the interview, Kercheval said McKinney was with Enervest. Enervest, is one of the 25 largest oil and gas companies in the United States.
Under the “forced pooling” legislation that Ellis and McKinney are drafting, a natural gas company can force a mineral rights holder to lease the property if a supermajority of the mineral rights holder’s neighbors agree to lease to the natural gas companies.
Kercheval said he thinks he agrees with Ellis and McKinney on the legislation.
Next guest for Kercheval — the president of Southwestern Energy, William Way.
Way had just come from Governor’s Earl Ray Tomblin’s office.
Governor Tomblin had just signed legislation that cleared the way for Southwestern to begin drilling gas wells in West Virginia.
Kercheval was gushing.
No questions about the uprising around the world over fracking.
No questions about New York just a few months ago banning fracking.
No questions about all the other jurisdictions in the world saying no to fracking.
“Bill, we want to welcome you to West Virginia,” Kercheval said at the end of the interview. “It’s good to have you here. I hope you won’t be a stranger. I hope you’ll come back and be a part of our community. Come back and hang with us a bit, will ya?”
“I look forward to that,” Way said. “This is a great day for West Virginia. And we are ready to get to work.”
“Good,” Kercheval said. “Thank you and congratulations.”
Then at the end of the hour, right before going to the news break, Kercheval couldn’t resist piling on the compliments.
“It’s refreshing to have a major business enterprise sit down and say — they want to be here, they like the situation here, they like the environment, they like the fact that they needed just a relatively minor legislative fix transferring the permits and the state responded. It’s good to hear some of that good news occasionally, isn’t it?”
Russell Mokhiber edits Morgan County, USA.