Belmont County, Ohio

Two years ago today, near the bank of the Ohio River which forms the border between eastern Ohio and western West Virginia, there was a blow-out at a gas well owned by XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, which took 20 days to get under control. The gas well was about to be put into production after being drilled and fracked.

What caught my eye about this incident was the publication before Christmas of a study which estimated that the methane released from this industrial accident was responsible for a quarter of the methane released in Ohio that year and for a greater amount than some (unnamed in media coverage) European countries.

Well, that’s quite a thing!

You may not have heard of Belmont Co, Ohio, but it was the location that drew me into this story. I’ve twice crossed the Ohio at Belmont County, just up the river from the methane release site, at Bridgeport. The first time was in 2011, and the second in May 2013 when I was researching A Message from Martha.

In 2013 I stood in Dysart Woods and wondered at centuries-old trees that would at some stage in their lives have had Passenger Pigeons perch in them and I visited the burial place of a woman called Martha Greer who died on the same day that the last Passenger Pigeon on Earth, also called Martha, died further west in Ohio in Cincinnati Zoo.

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