Wilt Leased Land for Natural Gas Exploration

Brent Finnegan -- June 3rd, 2010

According to documents filed at the Rockingham County Courthouse in 2008, Tony Wilt, the Republican candidate for 26th district delegate, was one of many land owners in the Bergton area who leased land to gas and oil companies for natural gas exploration.

The 5-year lease agreement with R. L. Powell of Knoxville, TN (recorded by Infinity Oil & Gas of Denver, CO) for Wilt’s 40-acre parcel in Bergton states that the lessee pays $250 per year for each gas well on the property, as well as one-eighth of the net proceeds from the sale of the gas. The lease was signed November 8, 2007.

UPDATE: According to GIS records, Wilt has sold the property.

Wilt commented on the possibilities of drilling for gas earlier this week. His remarks in Wednesday’s DNR did not mention his lease agreement with Powell.

Wilt, who up until a year or so ago lived in Bergton, said after the debate that he was excited about the possibilities that natural gas could have for the region and state. Exploration would create jobs and revenue that could prevent tax increases, he said.

But his enthusiasm was tempered. “The process has to be studied,” he said. “The decision to do it has to be based on sound science.”

On Thursday’s call-in debate show on WSVA, caller Dave Briggman confronted Wilt about not disclosing the lease to Jeff Mellott, the DNR reporter. Wilt responded:

I’ve not hidden anything . . . We have to be very careful that we don’t step on the rights of private landowners. One that owns land has to have the freedom (within reason) to do with that piece of land as they see fit, that’s going to be profitable for them and their families . . .

To say that we were invested in the hydrofracking process is a stretch of the imagination to say the least. It was a nominal fee paid for those mineral rights. As the caller stated, there were a lot of folks in that area that signed the very same lease. It’s common practice throughout where ever companies come in to try to secure mineral rights . . .

The Board of Supervisors is working hard to determine if [hydrofracking is] going to be safe . . . Here’s a possible opportunity to create a new business that’s going to bring revenues into our area, and is going to help fund these things that we so badly need. It’s going to create jobs, it’s going to create revenues for the individuals that have the property. If done properly, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Audio of Thursday’s candidate forum is available on WSVA’s website.

The environmental and health concerns of natural gas drilling have been expressed to Harrisonburg City Council and the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors. From the DNR article about hydrofracking published February 26:

A half-dozen people – including conservationists and a retired environmental engineer – raised concerns about potential environmental impacts of the proposal at a public hearing during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting . . . the board tabled a special-use permit application by Carrizo (Marcellus) LLC to perform exploratory drilling in Bergton . . .

Carrizo would use a technique called hydrofracking to break up the shale and release natural gas trapped inside. Hydrofracking involves high water pressure and a mixture of chemicals to break the rock apart.

In May, Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner “submitted a resolution to council addressing the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors that expressed concern and asked the board to deny the requested special use permit that would allow the drilling.” Degner said he is not opposed to drilling, but believes that we need to have proper guidelines in place before we do it.

According to court documents, dozens of parcels comprising thousands of acres in the Bergton area have been leased to oil and gas companies.

File photo by Holly Marcus. This story may be updated as more information becomes available.

Tags: , , ,

278 Responses to “Wilt Leased Land for Natural Gas Exploration”

  1. Frank J Witt says:

    GREAT INVESTIGATION MR. BRIGGMAN !!!! Thanks for the info Dave, very handy !

  2. City Dweller says:

    Yes, a sincere thank you to those who were responsible for uncovering this mess.

    How can Mr. Wilt state that he is not invested in this and was only paid a nominal fee? Maybe so far, but it states here that if this goes through he will receive 1/8 of the net proceeds of the sale of this gas. Of course he has incentives to push this through! Someone may correct if I’m wrong (and they have facts to back it up) but this seems like something that could earn him a good chunk of cash.

    He may continue to stress that he didn’t keep anything secret, but this is a pretty convenient and relevant fact for him to forget to mention.

  3. Uh, you’re not going to believe this, but Wilt is claiming he sold this property to his brother two years ago…the GIS system verifies he know longer owns it…

    Wouldn’t you know you sold the property when asked about it? The facts don’t change though…Wilt was sufficiently convinced, somehow, that the procedure was safe when he sold the mineral rights to his property back in 2007.

    • …the GIS system verifies he no longer owns it…sorry.

      • Deb SF says:

        It would be interesting to find out if he was one of the first to sell the rights, to see this early on as an opportunity, as technology progressed to the point where it was possible to extract gas from this land.

        Dave, even though Wilt has sold the land to his brother, Tony is the one who sold the mineral rights and opened this land to the possibility of drilling. Also, his family (not just his brother) owns other land in the area. It’s a reasonable question to ask, then, about the role he would play in rewriting and voting on VA’s regulations in this area. He and his family could stand to directly benefit from the very industry he would be voting to regulate.

        The permit application for this first test drill is here. Scroll down to the bottom for specific location and site plan.


  4. David Miller says:

    One that owns land has to have the freedom (within reason) to do with that piece of land as they see fit, that’s going to be profitable for them and their families . . .”

    Really, I’m in a different boat. I see it as at least immoral to pump diesel fuel into my neighbor’s groundwater to “lubricate” the drill raping the earth. At least.

    So Wilt is pro Drill baby Drill? Has he seen the news lately? Does he even know what will happen to his beloved former homeland of Bergton if this oil company has their way with it? I rode through Bergton last weekend and it was so beautiful. Can’t wait to see the oil derricks erected, should be great for the beautiful river that runs through it too. Seriously though, who thinks this is a good idea? !!!!!

  5. Renee says:

    So let me get this right… holding the land could prove to be controversial for his campaign, so he sold it… to his brother?!?

  6. City Dweller says:

    Why didn’t he state this during the debate this morning?! I feel that this could simply be a “family business”. There is no way that if Wilt knew he had no financial interest in this property, he wouldn’t have mentioned it.

    It still doesn’t change the fact that he leased this land to the oil company in the first place before regulations were in place in order to make a profit.

  7. And let’s be clear, folks, how man people would NOT know that they sold 40 acres of land two years ago to buy the house they’re currently living in?

  8. City Dweller says:

    I have to agree with you Dave. I think he’s going to have a hard time digging himself out of this one. He says he represents the people of the valley, but I’m from here too and I don’t anyone who is able to sell 40 acres and forget about it.

    I’ve got to go back to why I’ve always liked Kai, even when I’m voting republican in all other aspects. He came here 10 years ago, without any parent’s money, a name that people refer to as “not American” and a desire to make himself part of this community. Whatever your political inclination is, you have to respect him for that.

  9. David Miller says:

    I’m confused, what happened? He claimed to not know that he had sold 40 acres of land to his brother right after signing the mineral rights away?

    • He sold the land last March to his brother to buy the house he lives in now:

      Tax Map Number 9-(A)- L46A
      Address 2 20620 DOVESVILLE RD
      Zip Code 22811
      Zone A2
      Land Code 52
      Total Acres 40.35
      Deed Book 3481
      Deed Page 326
      Land Value $155,500.00
      Improvements $340,300.00
      Total Value $495,800.00
      Sale Date 03/18/2009
      Sale Price $610,000.00

      I wonder how many people in the 26th District own a $500-600 home and could forget the property they sold to acquire it? Yes, Tony Wilt’s just the “common man”.

      We have people checking into whether the lease agreement remains valid after the sale, and whether since it’s an encumberance on the property, whether Tony Wilt and his wife remain beneficiaries to the terms and conditions of the lease.

  10. MF says:

    The scary part is if this guy gets elected, he will help shape hydrofracking regulations for the state. Its pretty much a guarantee that whoever represents this district will most certainly have a hand in this states Hydrofracking policy, since this area would be the first to do it! He doesn’t know a damn thing about it, and he planed to have it done on land he owned! It will bring jobs?! It will bring people from outside of this area that know how to do the job. Opening a convenience store would probably bring more jobs to the area!

  11. Former Harrisonburg City Councilman, Hugh Lantz, appears to have sold rights to 50 acres of his property in Bergton…there appears to be at least FIVE or SIX different companies involved, just ONE company has mineral rights on about 10,000 acres, or, 15.6 square miles out of the total of 800 square miles in Rockingham.

  12. This was Brent’s posting, but thanks…I think.

  13. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    I think there’s not much to this based on what we know now. He doesn’t now own the land, nor the mineral rights. There was no required disclosure, nor a request for disclosure, so he wasn’t deceptive. And when it was brought up this morning during the call-in, he said that his (previous) ownership of the land was a matter of public record.

    I sat with Tony at the Linville-Edom Ruritans event tonight and we discussed this. I understood him to say he wishes that he had brought this up himself if only to be on the cautious side of ethics.

    But of course he knew he sold the land already. The reason he didn’t bring that up this morning, he said, was because he wasn’t completely sure if he also sold the mineral rights along with selling the land to his brother. He double-checked later and yes, he sold those rights too.

    Lots of companies bought up lots of mineral rights in Bergton. We’re now beginning to realize the extent of this, even though no drilling has started. Permits for exploring have only just begun and this will certainly be an issue in coming months. However, from what we know this evening (as opposed to the partial facts we had this morning) it seems to me that Tony didn’t do anything illegal, deceptive, or unethical in this situation.

    • DebSF says:

      It seems to me that your position is that the only matters a candidate needs to tell voters about are those they are legally required to disclose.

      A comment and a question. One can’t request disclosure if there is no knowledge about what should be disclosed. Is it not possible to be deceptive by omission?

      • Jeremy Aldrich says:

        It is definitely possible to be deceptive by omission. I don’t think that’s what happened here.

        In answer to your and Joe’s comments, I would say we need to be fair in calling for disclosure. What have Kai or Carolyn revealed about their personal or financial ties to issues and industries? Perhaps it’s something we (hburgnews) should start asking upfront during campaigns.

        • Deb SF says:

          The political novice here is Mr. Wilt- he chose not to disclose this, he decided that voters didn’t need to know this about him, a guy running for state-wide office that many people hadn’t even heard of before. Looks as though he was wrong.

          Fairness isn’t really the issue here. Ethical disclosure is. Each of the other candidates have been through elections and their personal financial interests have been vetted by the voters. Carolyn has been in public life for more than a decade, long enough that her real property and financial holdings in the surrounding areas are pretty well known by voters. Kai owns a house in the city, and doesn’t have financial interest in much of anything else yet, and this was a topic in the 08 election. As you’d expect, he is not as established financially as someone in their 50’s. Voters knew that he was not a wealthy guy when they elected him.

    • Renee says:

      To me, the fact that he sold the land and transferred the rights to his brother doesn’t change anything about what is bothering people. He was/is personally involved in the hydrofracking debate by leasing land to the oil company, which he should have brought up before now since that’s a hot-button political issue specific to this area, and on top of that, the land is still in his immediate family.

      If he owned a business that was known to be pumping toxins into the environment, or hiring illegal immigrants, or some other politically volatile topic (not that those topics are the same, but i’m just making a point), then before running for office, sold that business to his brother, would it be unfair for someone to call him out for having owned it in the past and for having just sold it to a sibling and for not having mentioned it or having good information about it when those issues came up in debates?

      • lowell fulk says:

        No Renee, it would not be unfair. It would be relevant…

        And it is quite relevant.

        Thank you for your mind…

      • Jeremy Aldrich says:

        I think it’s relevant to remember that no exploration or drilling has happened on the land he leased. According to what we’re now hearing, landmen have been signing leases left and right throughout Bergton. If he had an operational facility on his land bringing in money, then I might see this a little differently. He did not earn any royalties from his lease (when he had it) because there were no operations on the leased land, and there still aren’t. If a candidate bought stock in a company and sold it before it ever went up in value, would you call that a financial tie that needed to be disclosed?

        Are candidates supposed to disclose the financial interests not only of themselves (which none of the three in this race have done), but also of their spouses/girlfriends, siblings, and parents? Don’t make a new standard for someone just because you disagree with them politically.

        • Nobody’s confirmed, to my satisfaction, that Tony Wilt’s still not the beneficiary of the lease agreement on the property he’s sold.

          Jeremy, don’t you have some sort of “personal history” with Mr. Wilt?

          In this morning’s DNR story, Wilt says his entry into this lease agreement isn’t an indicator that he’s a supporter of hydro-fracting…which is ironic considering he was willing, in November of 2007, to allow a company to performs processes which, to me, sound like hydro-fracting.

          Jeremy, we’re not speaking of leases being signed “left and right” throughout Bergton. We’re talking about a lease Wilt signed in November of 2007.

          Just because the lease was transferred doesn’t mean Wilt doesn’t have to account for his signature on the lease, especially when reconciled against his view that hydro-fracting should be performed only after the process can be proven to be environmentally sound.

          • As Virginia law / regulations now stand Mr. Wilt has already pulled the trigger. His land, his brothers land, his daddy’s land, his momma’s land could all be hydrofrac-ed along with all their neighbors and he would have no say in it. So his “concern” is just a ruse. The deed is done.

          • David Miller says:

            The joke here is that Wilt purports “that hydro-fracting should be performed only after the process CAN be proven to be environmentally sound.” Which of course is impossible, like drilling off shore safely, not gonna happen in our lifetime.

  14. JGFitzgerald says:

    “There was no required disclosure.” That sounds a lot like “no controlling legal authority,” if anybody remembers that one.

  15. Jeremy, your buddy Wilt couldn’t even remember he sold the property on the radio this morning…he apparently didn’t remember that until Jeff Mellott called him this afternoon.

    Since you’ve taken on the task of campaign spokesman for Mr. Wilt, maybe you can address his educational status?

    Jeff Mellott previously wrote that Mr. Wilt has a Bachelors Degree from Cornerstone Bible Institute. I found a number of the school located here in Harrisonburg only to find out that this “school” is no longer in existence, went by several names during its existence, but was never registered as a college or university with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Mr. Wilt lists only that he attended BRCC, and didn’t even mention that at the Chamber debate on Tuesday.

    It is ironic to me, however, that while no one in any venue that I’m aware of has accused Mr. Wilt of any wrongdoing by the omission that he, in fact, signed over his mineral rights to a hydro-fracting entity, you have gone out of your way to suggest that someone has suggested his omission was criminal. Can you explain this?

    Most people I’ve spoken with believe his omission was unethical since the issue of hydro-fracting has been repeatedly-raised in this matter. His entry into a lease with this company back in 2007 needs to be explored further, i.e., we need to know exactly what he based his decision back in 2007 on to sign his mineral rights on that property away…because twice now, he’s used the mandate of a proven, safe standard before hydro-fracting can be undertaken.

    Also, both Kai and Carolyn should call on Mr. Wilt to explain how he came to be convinced that the procedure is safe, and also furnish proof that the contract to sell his brother the 40 acres in Bergton, in fact, released Tony from receiving any benefit of the lease agreement, which YOU say he said was no longer in effect.

    Further, the willful concealment of either his or his family’s financial interests in this matter are still quite relevant to his candidacy.

    You may not like it, but it is.

    • lowell fulk says:

      One must never open one’s mind to the point that one’s brain falls out…


      • Renee says:

        “One must never open one’s mind to the point that one’s brain falls out…” Great saying, Lowell! I’m going to have to start using that :)

        • seth says:

          yeah, it justifies a departure from that pesky free thinking…

          • Renee says:

            No, to me it just says that you can have an open mind, but don’t become one of those people is so open that they end up saying “everyone is right” because they won’t make an informed opinion on anything.

    • Emmy says:

      How many people are nauseated by the fact that none of this is likely to make any difference to the outcome of this election?

    • Jeremy Aldrich says:

      I am obviously not a campaign spokesman for anyone. But I hate a mean-spirited pile-on, as you well know.

      I did discuss his educational status last night with him. He has an associates from BRCC, and he attended Cornerstone Bible College at a time when they gave a certificate called a “Bachelors of Applied Ministry” for partial completion of the course of studies. Since it is not an accredited school and since the school isn’t even operating anymore, he has not mentioned it in debates. It was common for church lay leaders during that time period to take courses from the church school. Cornerstone did not have adult Sunday School classes, and in many ways the school was a replacement for that.

      You write, “no one in any venue that I’m aware of has accused Mr. Wilt of any wrongdoing by the omission”. That’s a confusing statement, since that’s exactly what this discussion is about.

      Also, when you called in to WSVA yesterday, you said “Can you comment why you have been talking about hydrofracking but you failed to disclose a financial interest you have in hydrofracking in Rockingham County?” In fact, your accusation was false. He does not have a financial interest in hydrofracking. You didn’t know it then, but now you do.

      • Yes, but failing to disclose this wasn’t illegal, but was unethical…unfortunately, I can’t edit my postings.

        I don’t know anything of the sort…lawyers I’ve spoken with believe that the lease tranferred with the sale, but I’ve seen no proof that Tony Wilt no longer is beneficiary of the terms and conditions of the lease…and even if he isn’t, he signed the lease in 2007 knowing the intended purpose of the lease.

        We all deserve to know how, in 2007, Tony Wilt decided that hydro-fracking was environmentally safe.

        We’re not likely to get that information seeing as how the candidate was such a “deer in the headlights” when I asked the question, he couldn’t even remember he sold the property.

        That’s the kind of representation the 26th District deserves in Richmond.

        Jeremy, your relationship with Mr. Wilt is?

        • It is entirely possible that an un-filed agreement exists between Tony Wilt and his family that he is due a share of gas production royalties. These secret documents are not uncommon and keep everyone honest when the true lease holder’s estate is settled. In the meantime, should gas production begin, and the money start to flow to the Wilts the only way anyone would know would be to examine his tax filings. It would be a capital gain.

      • Lowell Fulk says:

        You might want to look a bit further Jeremy, regarding financial interest in drilling for gas in Bergton…

  16. Renee says:

    Interestingly, I saw a commercial for GASLAND on HBO tonight:

    PBS has 23 minutes about it online:

  17. Renee says:

    Jeremy, if Tony’s brother had purchased this land from someone else, or if Tony had acknowledged the hydrofracking concern earlier, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s because this issue is a controversial one in our area politically, and we expect the candidates to have an opinion on it, and because the land was sold to the brother by Tony himself, that he is all tied up in this now. Also, it’s not fair to say people are making additional standards b/c of political position. I suspect the reaction would be the same if Frank or Degner had leased land to energy companies then sold that land to immediate family members and it came out in this way.

    • Jeremy Aldrich says:

      So again, what do we know about Kai and Carolyn’s financial ties to issues and industries? Have they ever mentioned a personal or relational financial stake in any of the issues they’ve discussed?

      What exact statements of Tony’s on the hydrofracking issue do you find to be deceptive?

      • Deb SF says:

        Jeremy, I think I’ve already answered both questions.

        This isn’t a mean-spirited pile-on by any means. Tony and his campaign have created this situation by not disclosing relevant information. Whether this was deliberate or the kind of mistake a rookie candidate for political office will sometimes make is an open question.

        Again, neither Kai nor Carolyn own land up in the northwestern part of the county that’s part of the Marcellus Shale formation that the gas companies are interested in. Both have been asked questions about their assets and monetary interests by voters in other elections. Tony has not. He’s deceived by omission, not with outright lies, analogous to the husband who didn’t tell his wife about the hook-up during the LA business trip last spring. Husband is still deceiving her, even if she never asks him if he slept with another woman while he was away.

        I went to the Hydrofracking discussion at Court Square last night, and listened to a 2 hour discussion about the legalities behind the R’ham county cases, what the permit in Bergton says, about the current state of regulation, and learned a ton. Bob Wilson answered questions for more than an hour from the audience, and he was terrific (he’s an environmental geologist), translating the tech-talk into plain english. Mostly county people, a few city folks.

        I have to think that a lot of the people who signed leases don’t really know what they might have gotten themselves (and their neighbors in the county) into. The first well on the Ennis property is supposed to be a test well, to let them figure out if what they think is there really is there. And if they find something, the company has the right to renew the lease until the well gives out, no matter what the property owner says. People have signed away the mineral rights to 10,000 acres up there. If you own the top of your land and someone else owns the mineral rights underneath it (the so-called split-estate), they can get at that gas or oil anyway they want, even if it means drilling a few hundred yards from your house or pumping out of your best pasture land or a few hundred feet from you house. And the waste water from the drilling, with all the chemicals they used in the drilling and fracking process, are going to be sprayed back over the land when the work is done. That means it goes back into the water table. 1 well every 5 acres is reasonable over an area. They have permits for 10,000 acres.

        For me, by selling the mineral rights to land that he owned, Wilt is on record in agreeing to open up drilling for gas in the county, and all that implies. The fact that the drilling hasn’t begun yet isn’t the issue. The fact he’s gotten rid of the land to his brother isn’t either. His actions in 07 tell us his position on drilling is “go for it”. His words, so far, say something else.

        • Deb, to clarify.

          My research thus far that only ONE (Carrizo?) of the five or six entities having these contracts has 10,000 acres or 15.6 miles of rights…I hope to have a fairly accurate depiction of the total amount of land we’re talking about either today, or early next week.

          With the totals, I’ve spoken to the County GIS Department to have them create a map using the properties we’ll have of Bergton, and another map showing the proportion of the County already leased.

          • Deb SF says:

            Thanks for the clarification, Dave.

            This is the site for the film shown at Court Square last night, BTW. In case anyone’s interested, you can watch the trailer here. A productive 3:15 minutes of your time.


        • David Miller says:

          Deb, the only thing I’d add to your summation is that the water they’ll be spreading over the land (illegal in most states, most states require indefinite holding as industrial waste) is typically full of mercury etc and has 5 times the amount of salt content of sea water. Of course we’re not allowed to know the chemical content of the water pumped into the ground, that’s proprietary.

  18. Renee says:

    Emmy, (sorry I can’t reply threaded, I’m writing from my phone) I have to disagree that this will have no effect. I think republican voters that happen to not want fracking in their backyard will have to think twice about voting for someone that allowed exploration on their land, was willing to make money off of it, and seems welcoming to the industry.

    • Emmy says:

      I would agree with you on that if I thought they were paying attention. However based on the sheer volume of Wilt signs that I see going up every day…I don’t think they are.

  19. Speak Truth says:

    Jeremy thanks for following up and finding out the details.

    Sounds, like a much a do about nothing.

    I wonder how many of the people “outraged” over this, are also outraged by the fact that President Obama was the largest reciptant of BP cash. It could explain why BP was given exceptions from the National Environmental Policy Act in April of 09….

    • JGFitzgerald says:

      Wilt’s sin in this case is similar to that of people who post under “handles” or other assumed names: Deception by omission. The discussion came up Tuesday, and he felt no need to mention a family interest in the practice of hydraulic fracturing. I don’t quite get the spurious innuendo that the President allowed the Gulf spill because of BP donations. Is the writer saying that Wilt is covering up donations from hydro-frackers? If so, the writer should reveal what he knows about this. Accusing a candidate for Delegate of a sin of omission is one thing, but this is a case of someone hinting that Wilt took a bribe, doing it with no evidence and without using his or her real name. Tony may have become involved in a dangerous business practice he admits to not understanding, but no one, until now, has suggested that he’s been bought off. That’s over the top, and Speak Truth should apologize to Wilt.

  20. The DNR ran a story on this today.

    Mellott’s lede reads, “The Republican candidate in the 26th House District special election acknowledged Thursday he failed to publicly disclose his financial ties to a controversial natural gas exploration proposal near Bergton.”

    It does mention that he sold to his brother. Wilt is quoted saying, he would abstain from voting on proposed legislation that would be a conflict of interest.

    I suppose we the voters will have to hold him to that.

    • Rockingham County, and the 26th House District is the guinea pig in this grand experiment to hyrdofrac for natural gas in the Shenandoah Valley. I want a delegate that will fight for our best interests, not some bump-on-the-log who will “abstain”.

      • Renee says:

        Agreed! Especially after seeing the video I linked to above about some of the potential dangers!

  21. Speak Truth says:

    nice spin JG.

    The connection is, if you are outraged that Wilt’s family members might have fin. interest in the practice of hydraulic fracturing, then you should be even more outraged by Obama’s clear fin. interest in making BP happy, which one can conclude lead to this disaster.


    As voters we have to do that all the time. People in Congress, or in the State house, pretty much all levels of Govt are going to have interest in many things that come up. It’s really not uncommon.

    In fact it happened at the last Board of Supervisors meeting I atended.

    • Deb SF says:

      Spinning pretty hard yourself, ST. You’re trying to distract local attention from an election that’s coming up in about 10 days with misleading info.

      from http://mediamatters.org/research/201005240038

      Obama received $71,051 in BP-linked contributions for his presidential campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsible Politics. All of the money came from BP employees, not the company. Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees; none of this is from BP’s PAC.

      Go to the CRP website, search for presidential donors, list BP as the employer and check out all the BP employees who gave donations to Obama. Engineers, traders, auditors, accountants, geologists, paralegals, just a ton of people who work for the company. Do the same thing for McCain, and you’ll find a bunch of BP’ers gave $ to him, too.


      • Speak Truth says:


        Mediamatters? Really? yeah, you are right he did get $71K in 08 when he was running DIRECTLY from BP…the most of any canidate.

        but since he got into national politics he also was the largest recepiant of BP cash, directly from BP, millions in BP PAC cash, and from employees

    • seth says:

      speak truth, if you check your facts on the bp money going to obama, i think you’ll find that the $70k he received from bp employees (only about 30k more than the mccain campaign as i recall) would pale in comparison to the 1/8th of the profits mr. wilt would have stood to collect if gas had been discovered while he held that lease (or may still stand to collect….mr. briggman is looking into that as mr. wilt seems unable to remember or prove much at this point in time). and while i agree that it’s common for people to recuse themselves on issues in which they have a prurient interest, i think you’re missing the point that this says a lot about what mr. wilt is willing to do in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. or perhaps he’ll come out and let everyone know how it is that he determined this was a good idea back in 07. if he were able to say ‘this is the science that persuaded me that hydrofrackin was a safe and viable solution for energy extraction in the valley,’ rather than ‘duh, i don’t really remember’ that would go a long way.

      • Speak Truth says:

        $71K was what he got directly from BP during the election…by the way that most of anyone running.

        He was the largest reciptant of money from BP directly, BP Pacs, and employees from the time he got into national politics.


  22. City Dweller says:

    To me, it doesn’t matter who owns the land now or stands to benefit because Mr. Wilt was the person who signed this lease of mineral rights over to the oil and gas company and it’s theirs now. It doesn’t matter if the royalty checks will be written to Wilt or his brother. That gas company can come in and drill and put the land of both County and City residents at risk.

    Wilt talks about landowner rights, but what about those Bergton, Rockingham County and City residents whose land and water will be polluted even though they opposed this or aren’t getting royalty checks? What are their rights?

    He even said yesterday something along the lines that little money was made off of this. Maybe not now, but once they start drilling there will be a lot more heading his way. Who wouldn’t have an incentive for this to go forward?

  23. Speak Truth says:

    they can’t come drill until the Board of Supervisors approves it.

    all Wilt and others in the area did was let the company explore…to even find out if there was gas there to begin with.

    I would think we could all agree a land owner, at the very least, has the right to allow that to happen.

    The rights of the people of Rockingham County, Harrisonburg etc will be expressed by the Board of Supervisors (last I checked Wilt isn’t running for a position there) and the Town Council in Harrisonburg…(Kai is the mayor isn’t he?)

    • Speak Truth, you’re full of crap and you clearly have no idea of the history of this particular seat in the House of Delegates.

      A couple of years ago, the issue of Biofuels production came before the Board of Supervisors, where they had tabled the issue while it was “studied”…Matt Lohr, previous hold of this seat became impatient on our Supervisors failure to make a decision on the issue in what he felt was a timely manner, so he introduced state legislation to do away with the requirement to obtain a special use permit.

      This is the wording from Lohr’s site, as one of his accomplishments:

      “I also championed a bill to promote the use of small scale biofuels on farmland. This bill passed in 2009 states that if farmers meet certain criteria, they do not need a special use permit from their local government. Small scale biofuel production offers great promise and opportunity for the agricultural industry.”

    • JGFitzgerald says:

      All they did was let them explore? And that’s just a toe in the polluted water? Wilt either did or didn’t know what they planned. Saying otherwise is evading responsibility. You can hear the same thing in the radio interview. Listen to Wilt trying to dismiss the hydro-fracking lease he sold because everybody else in Bergton was doing it. Listen to him blaming his misleading mailers on the people he quoted. Do we really want to listen to him come home from Richmond and lay the blame for his votes on the Big City Republicans who made him vote that way? Han Solo is cute when he says, “It’s not my fault.” A Delegate isn’t.

    • City Dweller says:

      Someone may correct me, but I’m almost certain by gaining the leases from the property owners the company may begin their first test well – regardless of what the BOS says. It is merely an etiquette issue to try and gain their approval to make themselves look better.

      The leases weren’t signed to explore, the leases were only signed because they KNEW shale was under that land that could be drilled. The gas companies are smarter than that. They aren’t wasting their time just randomly digging holes.

      Yes, Kai is the Mayor. He came out publicly at a council meeting and voiced his concerns over water safety and submitted a request for a proclamation against hydrofracking until more studies and regulations regarding safety are in place.

  24. The Board of Supervisors might be able to stop this pending better regulations and safeguards IF someone like Mark Obenshain, Emmett Hanger, and regional Delegates had their back. But this is the Drill Baby Drill tribe, so don’t count on it.

    The lease that Tony Wilt signed gives the gas companies complete freedom to drill on the Wilt family land, lay pipelines, build roads, accumulate waste in ponds, spray brine on the land, and generally make a mess of the neighborhood.

    Further, Virginia law gives the Gas companies the right to drill under the land of people who have held out and oppose this development. Once they prove the gas is there all of Bergton’s residents are involved. They will be “pooled” into the drilling.

  25. Andy Perrine says:

    To me the greatest transgression of all is that Mr. Wilt’s main campaign message is that he’s a regular guy, just like the rest of us hard working and honest Valley dwellers. When in fact, he’s not. He’s doing deals and running for office to make decisions that could position those deals to bear bigger fruit. Same old dirty politics.

    The details of the lease and the property are very important, of course. But with this issue, Mr. Wilt has shown his main campaign claim to be utterly hollow. He’s not even in office yet and he’s already betrayed his constituents.

    And fine job of digging, Dave. You win citizen of the week.

    • City Dweller says:

      I completely agree with you. The Wilt campaign has come out slinging mud calling Kai a “Big City Liberal” while Mr. Wilt is a “regular guy” like the rest of us.

      We do have access to records of Kai’s and Carolyn’s financial interests from when they were elected to council and it seems like it anyone deserves the title of the “regular guy” who represents the majority of people in this Valley, it’s Kai.

  26. Speak Truth says:

    wow, didn’t realize calling someone a “big city liberal” was a dirty word.

    with that said, I thought liberals were all for looking for alternative fuel sources? I think it’s important, in light of the Gulf to look for things besides oil.

    also notice the wording in Lohr’s quote…small scale…much different then large scale production from gas companies. Also it limits it to farmers.

    • Brooke says:

      It’s not, in and of itself. But in the context Tony Wilt used it in his mailer, it was clearly meant to be pejorative.

    • Brooke says:

      Furthermore, generally, “liberals” tend to be looking more towards renewable energy sources.

      It’s not just oil vs. everything else, with anything that’s not oil being a great alternative.

      It’s non-renewable energy sources versus renewable energy sources, or at the very least, sources that are far, far more plentiful than things like oil and natural gas.

      Considering the fact that natural gas is t a renewable resource, and considering the impact that drilling for it (esp. hydrofracking) can have on the environment and ground water (which impacts far more than just the property being used for the process), I’m not sure why it surprises you that this might be a contentious issue.

      • Brooke says:

        that was, “is NOT a renewable resource” :-)

        • Speak Truth says:

          um…NATURAL Gas is a renewable.

          and for that matter so is petroluem.

          they both come from nature. it’s what we will all become after we die.

          I think what you might be gettign at is things like hydro power, which actually destroyes eco-systems because you have float large amounts of land. Or maybe wind…which is unsitely and destroy eco-systems because you have to build large open fields of wind mills.

          everything has an effect.

          • Brooke says:

            Not at the rate we consume them they aren’t.

            I’m not talking about any one type of power, but a need to look at all options and see what is the most sustainable, long-term, compared to the damage. You’re right, they’re all going to have an effect, and c certainly the damage caused by the use or harvesting of any energy source needs to be considered. At some point you have to determine which sources are likely to cause the *least* damage in the long term.

            The cost of our dependence on oil is abundantly and painfully clear right now. And we’re beginning to understand some of the problems associated with the exploration for and harvest of natural gas.

            I’ll take “unsitely” over poisoned water tables any day. Personally, I don’t find wind farms to be unsitely, but YMMV.

          • David Miller says:

            Everything does have an effect. You hydrofrack, you destroy our environment (literally salting the earth!).

            Embracing environmental devastation is a great campaign platform. BP was just doing its thing in the Gulf, so are Carizzo and Wilt in Bergton!

          • Renee says:

            Speak Truth, you have to rank the pros and cons of each method somehow, and not just say they’re all renewable. I wouldn’t call natural gas “renewable” (in our lifetimes), but it is arguably better for the earth than burning petroleum, and we can find large amounts of it here in the U.S. The question is about how to safely extract it – and hydrofracking is a largely untested and unregulated industry that very well may poison underground water, leading to more devastating near-term (and long-term) effects on the community.

            So, even though there may be issues with wind farms and hydro power (how about solar?), we need to weigh the pros and cons of various sources of energy and how they are obtained and what the long-term impact on the earth and the people may be.

            I think you may want to re-think your definition of “renewable” by the way. Timeframe is important in its definition in the energy context. I’m not sure I can convince you either way by responding here anyway.

    • What’s your point? Lohr still went around the Board of Supervisors.

  27. Speak Truth says:

    I would be interested to hear though, what make Kai and Ms. Frank “regular guys” from the Valley.

    • They were not set up in business by their daddies. To paraphrase the great Texas hillbilly queen Molly Ivins – Wilt was born on third and thinks he hit a triple.

      • Andy Perrine says:

        Not sure Speak Truth. But they haven’t made this claim the main focus of their campaigns. So I’m not sure how your question is relevant.

        • Speak Truth says:

          They didn’t, but City Dweller did…

          and Bubby…I am amazed that running a successful family business can be turned into a negative.

          • City Dweller says:

            I’m in no way afiliated with Kai’s campaign. Don’t compare my comments on a blog to Wilt’s official and RPV endorsed campaign literature.

            You’re scraping at this point.

          • Speak Truth says:

            I am not comparing, I am simply asking you to explain your point.

  28. David Miller says:

    You mean, do they own a business that grosses millions of dollars, did the have to unload their mineral rights (oil man), do they rest under the roof of a $500,000 house? Not really, no, they don’t. That would be who’s definition of “regular guy”?

    I really don’t have a problem with Wilt owning a medium sized business, duh. I really don’t have a problem with Wilt owning a $500,000 house. I really don’t have a problem with Wilt claiming his Valley heritage, until he signs away its beauty and vitality to industry for profit. What I do have a problem with is that Wilt’s business is by no means small. Wilt is by no means a regular guy by definition, top 1% by definition specifically.

    Btw, no one has mentioned that concrete production is one of the largest point source of CO2 discharge pollution. Any conflict of interest there though may only happen at the Federal level, I could be wrong on that though.

  29. David Miller, I’m ashamed of you.

    You are not exercising tolerance.


    • David Miller says:

      On the contrary I have said nothing disparaging, simply pointing out the false tone behind Wilt’s regular guy campaign theme after the anonymous posterer “Speak Truth” asked me to point out how different the political offerings will be on June 15th. I’m sure I’d like Wilt in person and everyday matters but after seeing all this play out I more than ever don’t cherish the thought of Wilt being in control of regulation of the oil/gas industry threatening Bergton and the rest of the Valley. Personally I’ll take the fella who’s had a science class or two in his life and can wrap his mind around an issue before signing away the purity of the land he claims to love.

  30. Dany Fleming says:

    This issue speaks volumes. The first is Wilt’s judgment. He jumped on a deal while, admittedly, not knowing either the “science” or consequences. This is not a good practice for a people’s representative.

    Next, he’s subjected his neighbors to a potentially significant change in life and environment. It’s his right to make deals. However, I’m interested in knowing how much he communicated with his neighbors while he was making this deal? This is not a good practice for a people’s representative.

    Finally, Wilt has little to no public record. He’s been excessively ambiguous and non-committal (and even contradictory) on almost every relevant local issue posed to him. It seems we now have our first real issue and response of public record. It’s not a good start and not a good practice for a people’s representative.

    What exactly is it that Mr. Wilt would provide the 26th district? (other than he inherited an established business and that he’ll look into things if he gets to Richmond).

  31. Jim Purcell says:

    You guys are beating a dead horse! This election boils down to one thing…do district 26 voters want to go with a progressive or a conservative candidate.

    The progressives will lose this hands down. You can blog all you want to about Tony did this or Tony did that but its just noise.

    The progressive base is still a long ways off before it will carry this district.

    • Rockingham Joe says:

      Mr. Purcell, as a conservative voter I do not believe in winning at any cost. The cost to me is sacrificing honesty and integrity. Those are the values I was raised on around here and which Mr. Wilt says he’s also running on.

      This may just be a bunch of noise but honesty is honesty no matter what side your on. Giving that up doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run.

  32. Rockingham Joe says:

    You suggesting Tony Wilt’s as clever as a fox? No need to comment on that. This is not the Republican Party I’ve known all my life and this will probably be a horrible mistake for our party and show some of the worst politics we can offer.

  33. I’m sorry. Did I mention I have to more Wilt leases in my hands…these are leases of Mr. Wilt’s parents…they’ve leased mineral rights to one 600 +- acre patch, and another 30+- acre patch…

    So I believe it’s absolutely unfair and mean to make a characterization that the Wilt family has any financial incentive or timetable to ensure that hydro-fracing becomes commonplace in Bergton. It is a totally baseless assertion without any evidence to make such an assertion.

  34. David Miller says:

    Fox in charge of the hen house anyone>?

  35. Speak Truth says:

    Rockingham County has a interest in this being a safe procedure. The amount of jobs in would create and money it would being the area is massive.

    When a company comes in and wants to explore the options, it makes sense to at least jump on board at the beginning stages, that’s what many families in Bergton did. If a family didn’t and studies showed it was a safe operation and the county moved forward that family could be sitting in the wind. There is nothing to this…

    • David Miller says:

      There is a lot to this and if you can’t see it you’re blind to the reality of it. You’re pretending that this “procedure” can ever be safe. You’re speaking about it as though that is an option. Drilling for Natural Gas using HydroFracking will destroy Bergton as we know it, and all watersheds downstream/aquifer.

    • Actually no, the longer you hold out the better a per acre lease deal you get…unless you get in early with 600+ acres. That’s enough land to get the drilling started and then the law allows the state to compel reluctant landowners to participate. The law sucks.

    • lowell fulk says:

      Nonsense. Those who hold out are in a better position.

      • David Miller says:

        Those who hold out are screwed. Once you drill, the gas extracted is yours even if it came out of the ruined bedrock below your neighbors home. Sure their well water will now be poisonous and sometimes flammable, their land salted from the brine drilling solution and their livestock dead from methane seeping out of the ground but you’ve gotten rich and in the end that’s all that really matters.

  36. Jim Purcell says:

    How and why did the June 4, 8:14pm and June 4,8:50pm comments jump from the middle of the comment section to where they are now?

    That’s certainly “progressing” the debate.

    • Alex Sirney says:

      All the comments appear to be displayed in the order they were posted, according to the timestamps. Is there something I’m missing?

      They may have appeared to move as people responded in the tiered responses to comments posted above.

  37. BANDIT says:

    “Shady and Underhanded” is the way Wilt comes across as he back peddles to handle this matter…We have enough Politicians that fit that description in office. Please, let’s not continue this pattern.

  38. Speak the Truth,

    Uh, natural gas is renewable over a time horizon of thouseands or millions of years. This is not what anybody who knows anything about energy economics uses the term “renewable,” which would be from what one grows in a yeara and can grow again or is from water flowing or the sun shining or the wind blowing, although in some precisely technical sense they are not “renewable,” but rather are ongoing with no prospect of running out for the foreseealbe future, unlike oil or natural gas.

    Jim Purcell,

    Oh, you are probably right. Voters around here are knee jerk idiots who do not know or care if a candidate is corrupt or not as long as he is labeled “conservative” and “Republican.” Duuuuuuuuuuuuuh.

    • Speak Truth says:

      so if oil is made from something that died 10000 years ago, isn’t there something that died say 9999 years ago that in the process of becoming oil/natural gas?

      • Alex Sirney says:

        Please keep the discussion relevant to the topic at hand – Republican candidate for delegate Tony Wilt’s lease of mineral rights to land he owned up until recently. The timeframe of hydrocarbon formation isn’t particularly relevant to the controversy surrounding its extraction methods.

        I encourage you to do your own research on the rate of formation as it compares to the rate of usage worldwide.

        • lowell fulk says:


          “Speak Truth” or “STruth” as he calls himself is a troll whose goal is to bump a discussion off course.

          Name not withstanding, much of what he writes is dishonest or deliberately misleading.

          • JGFitzgerald says:

            Actually, he just made a reference to “hydroflacking”. Which means, I suppose, being an apologist, or “flack”, for the drilling industry. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mention it purely from a linguistic standpoint. (Yes, the sincerity is a wee bit “faux”,and I realize that puts me at risk on the occasion of my next typo.)

          • Speak Truth says:

            geez, lowell…that’s why I was replying to certain post in this thread. Just trying to educate the readers, and myself.

            don’t get so bent out of shape, when you can’t refute my post.

          • lowell fulk says:

            Nope, trying to bump the discussion off course.

            The truth isn’t in you.

            Just letting folks know about you troll boy.

  39. Anybody know why Jeremy appears to have bowed out of this discussion?

    • BANDIT says:

      He went “hydrofracking”…It’s the newest thing to do!

    • I’m still reading the comments, but I’ve said my piece on the original topic of discussion. Whatever your opinion about hydrofracking is, I don’t think Wilt acted unethically in this situation.

      It’s one thing to attack a (potential) environmental problem, and another to attack a person. Folks who comment on this site are usually wise enough to know the difference, but campaign season seems to turn people mean (and create some extremely strange bedfellows). I don’t like it from Democrats any more than I like it from Republicans. Most of the folks on here pretending to be shocked – shocked! – over this had no intention of voting for Tony anyway. The faux outrage from Democratic leaders in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County rings just as hollow as VFF’s complaining about Kai last week.

      I think you, Dave, had asked about my “relationship” with Tony. As I said when I first started covering this race in mid-April, we used to attend the same church. We were not particularly close but saw each other frequently. That’s the only context I’ve known him in outside of this campaign, and I hadn’t seen him for several years before we both showed up (for different reasons, obviously) at the Tea Party rally on Court Square this Spring.

      Honestly, I appreciate you doing the digging in legal paperwork and bringing this to everyone’s attention (assuming you’re the one who was shopping the story around to the media Wednesday night in addition to calling in the question on Thursday). But now that we have more facts, people have to decide: are we going to follow the story where it leads, or try to make the facts bend to our own preconceptions?

      • republitarian says:

        Yes, I agree with Jeremy.

        • Myron,

          You agree that the “outrage” by VFF people about Kai was “hollow” and “faux”? Sure did not seem like that was your view here at the time.

      • lowell fulk says:

        A couple of questions come to mind.

        What role do you see yourself playing? Reporter/journalist? Political commentator? Arbiter of people’s opinions and thoughts?

        Whose wisdom are you criticizing? On what basis?

        Please explain with attribution, this statement: “The faux outrage from Democratic leaders in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County rings just as hollow as VFF’s complaining about Kai last week.”

      • Renee says:

        Jeremy, I respectfully disagree with you that this discussion is solely party-motivated. One of the major candidates failed to mention that he was personally/financially involved in a political/environmental topic that has the potential to affect people in this region in a major way, and which he may be voting on if elected, and it deserves some discussion & debate.

        • From yesterday’s DNR article:

          “Wilt, who moved from Bergton to Broadway more than a year ago, said he never mentioned his ties to the property because he no longer owned the land and was no longer a part of the agreement.

          On Thursday, Wilt said he had not tried to hide his interest in the project because the mineral rights agreement was a matter of public record.

          The agreement he entered into is a common practice, he said, adding that many property owners in the area have signed similar deals.

          ‘We have to be careful that we don’t step on the rights of the private landowner,’ he said.

          He added that if elected, he would abstain from voting on proposed legislation that would be a conflict of interest.”

          I do not believe that this discussion is solely partisan, but at least four of the the folks crying foul on Tony’s ethics are Democratic party leaders or activists. Beyond hearing Tony say he will abstain from votes on hydrofracking, what do they want?

          • David Miller says:

            I want a legislator that will vote on hydrofracking when called to do so, why do we have to sacrafice representation because he has a conflict of interest.

            Jeremy, I’m allowed to have an opinion on this, my volunteer roles/positions/whateva don’t preclude me from voicing them. The reason I’m voicing my concerns has correlation to my party affiliation but that affiliation is not the cause of it.

          • David, of course you’re allowed to have an opinion. Am I, too?

          • Jeremy, the liberal, whining about partisan politics that aren’t solely partisan?

            Perhaps we can talk about his endorsements from Republican leaders:

            Mark Obenshain, who introduced legislation last year to force a woman who has had a miscarriage outside the presence of her doctor to call the police to examine her miscarried fetus, or face up to 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine; Mark Obenshain, who defended Judge John McGrath in a lawsuit where it was determined that Judge McGrath illegally used his bailiff to run drivers license information and criminal background checks on girlfriends, illegal car-parkers, etc., then voted to reappoint him.

            Suzanne Obenshain, who we caught being on the City Electoral Board and the Chairman of the 26th District at the same time — a class one misdemeanor, who Judge McGrath reappointed Suzanne back onto the Electoral Board as soon as the Charlottesville C.A. decided she wasn’t going to pursue charges?

            Marsha Garst, who illegally raised The Breeze offices, pursuant to a search warrant signed by a judge, and which search just cost taxpayers $10,000.

            Ken Cuccinelli, who publicly came to Marsha’s support over the illegal search and who is now defending George Mason University in the Supreme Court of Virginia over their illegal weapons policy? (Nevermind the UVA subpoenae…and the Obamacare suits which I agree with).

  40. Wilt’s latest email…he needs $15,000 for 10 days…he must not have gotten a lot of money form the Obenshain Party a couple of weeks ago, huh?


    I Need Your Help!!

    Dear Friends,

    We’re just 10 days away from the June 15th special election. I remain very grateful for all of the help you’ve given me up to this point in the campaign, but I need your help now more than ever. You may have seen the two mail pieces the Democratic Party of Virginia paid for to help elect my opponent. They think they have a chance to sneak away with a House of Delegates seat here in the solidly Republican Shenandoah Valley. They want one more Delegate to support the liberal agenda of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid.

    In order to fight back, my campaign needs to raise $15,000 between now and Election Day. We need this money to continue sending out mail, keep our radio ads on the air, get more signs up, and keep spreading our message of limited government and traditional values to every voter in the 26th House of Delegates District.

    I think you all know I’m not a career politician. I decided to run for the House of Delegates because I believe we need a businessman’s perspective to represent us in Richmond. I must say, I’ve truly been surprised by how much political campaigns cost. However, we’re down to the wire, and I have no choice but to ask you to help me one more time.

    Make no mistake–we’re on track to win this election, but we have no margin for error. The liberal Democrats are determined to take away this seat from our party and add another vote for their liberal agenda. As long as we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll be able to stop them, but that won’t happen unless you help me one more time.

    Please click on this link to make your most generous contribution possible. Whether it’s $500, $250, $100, $50, or any other amount, your help will ensure that we win this election and maintain the solid conservative representation Matt Lohr has provided us for the past five years.

    Thank you again for all of your help. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the months and years ahead. May God continue to bless you and your family.


    Tony Wilt

    PS– We’re just 10 days away from Election Day. Please help make sure we stay on track for a great victory on June 15th. Click on this link and send your most generous contribution possible today. Thanks!

  41. So Jeremy, if Mr. Wilt expressed his OK for hydrofracting as long as it’s environmentally safe, then we must assume that since he signed his mineral rights away on the land he owned in 2007, Mr. Wilt received some information such that he’s already concluded, to his satifaction, that the procedure is safe.

    Otherwise, I’m sure his parents wouldn’t have signed a similar lease for their 630+- acres, huh?

    It’s also safe to assume that with nearly 670 acres that the Wilt family has in leases, that they have no current or future financial interest in the success of hydrofracting on their property, since their leases only provide for the Wilts to receive 1/8 of the revenues from whatever comes from the wells that could be built on their property…not to mention the need for enough concrete to require the construction of a concrete plan just to serve this need, in Bergton?

    You’re saying there’s no current or potential conflict here, right?

  42. JGFitzgerald says:

    I’m curious, Jeremy, as to what you mean by “faux outrage.” Some people belong to particular parties because of their beliefs. Are you suggesting that the reverse is true — that people develop their beliefs because of what party they belong to? Some people really do believe that we shouldn’t foul our groundwater. That not “faux.” Some people believe candidates shouldn’t hide their business dealings. That’s not “faux.” You refer to yourself as “covering” this race. If you’re going to do that, you shouldn’t question the motivations of those who respond to your “coverage” or participate in the conversation. Wilt sold leases for a dangerous, dirty, and destructive mining technique. Do you really believe any of us have faked our reactions to that?

    • David Miller says:

      Amen Joe!

      Jeremy, I may or may not come off as sarcastic but the reason I am a Democrat is because I care a great deal about the Shenandoah Valley. I see Republicans like Wilt embracing drilling using this incredibly irresponsible method. I see the “Small Gov party” socializing the risks associated with drilling while pocketing the gain, literally in Wilt’s case.

      Mineral development is dangerous, proven fact!

      I get emotional because what Wilt is embracing is horrific for The Valley! I hope that he doesn’t take my objections to his actions and beliefs as a personal attack that is intended to be mean. I don’t even know the guy but I do QUESTION HIS JUDGMENT. I question it because he signed away OUR ENVIRONMENT and intends to expand the power of his reckless signature on June 15th. He hid his involvement in this business for a reason, or so it seems. I’d love an interview with him answering to this. Some suggested questions would include

      1 When you signed the lease, did you ask your neighbors how they felt about your actions and the effect it would have on them?
      2 How do you clean an aquifer once polluted?
      3 Where will the fracking solution be stored once used?
      4 Who is paying for the road upgrades currently underway into Bergton?
      5 Do you support regulation of the Natural Gas industry that guarantees public safety and environmental purity?

      • I would like to know what information he used in 2007 to make his determination that the process was safe…and is he aware of the vast quantities of concrete used in the process.

      • Good questions.

        But again, based on what we know, I don’t believe he was “hiding” anything.

        I would also note that you’re taking a more extreme position on hydrofracking than Kai or Carolyn.

    • Joe, you’re running for city council. What previous, completed business deals of yours might the public find interesting? Make sure you cover all your bases! ;-)

      Also, I didn’t write this story, but we are citizen journalists, same as when you were contributing to the site. We strive to keep our stories as objective as possible, but are free to comment and opine. As you were, and are.

      There are at least two separate issues in this story. One is about whether it would be wise to conduct hydrofracking operations in this area. The second is what (if anything) candidate Wilt should have brought up about his personal involvement in hydrofracking. My comments were intended to address that second issue.

      • Deb SF says:

        Your comments also criticized the individual motivations of people who posted here in the discussion threads, characterizing them as exhibiting “faux outrage”.

        • Jeremy Aldrich says:

          So where’s the line on criticizing people’s internal motivations, Deb? Is it okay to do when it’s criticizing Republican candidates?

          I do not know anyone’s internal motivations, so I apologize that my words implied any claim of that sort. But I am calling “BS” on those Democratic party officials among us who want to pretend they’re being objective on the issue of Tony’s ethics…at least until it becomes standard practice to hear from local Dem candidates on all their possible conflicts of interest at the start of each campaign cycle before things are “discovered” during the campaign season.

          This story is one worthy of discussion. Certainly hydrofracking poses some very real potential and some very real risks for our district. And we should be able to ask our candidates what they think about it. But to say more than what we know – to begin calling people unethical or to suggest they are trying to hide things or make money in an underhanded way without some pretty strong evidence – is wrong.

          It is *almost* as offensive to me as a voter as being called a “big city liberal” just because I live in Harrisonburg. It is also *almost* as offensive as the VFF’s similar attempts to score political points last week by questioning a candidate’s internal motivations.

          I know and like most of the commenters here, and I know and like all three candidates. But I won’t be shut down or told to uncritically follow a particular party line, even if it is a party full of people I like. I apologize if it seemed I was trying to shut anyone else down; I wasn’t. This will probably be my last comment on this topic for a while, because at this point my participation seems to be generating more heat than light, which I regret.

          One more thought: I would like hburgnews to be a place where people from many viewpoints feel welcome, and where candidates and officeholders don’t feel scared to wade into discussions centered around problems and solutions rather than personalities and partisanship. Are we there yet?

          • David Miller says:

            I don’t think I argue, discuss, debate, share in a fashion that could possibly be considered partisan. I do argue my opinion and understanding of the truth, issue by issue. By causation I always wind up in the big tent Democrats have to offer. If I’m lumped into the 4/5 group to which you refer I object. When confronted by misdeeds from Dems, I shake my wring my hands the same as you and publicly here, historically. I personally think that you tend to report accurately, fully and if I may say, well. Your personal comments tend towards Wilt which is natural since you know and like him. I have no problem with that.

          • Deb SF says:

            Jeremy, no one is trying to shut you down. But it does seem that mostly no one agrees with your view in this instance.

            It’s one thing to have different opinions about candidates, to evaluate their thoughts, actions and, yes, their motivations. Anyone who runs for office knows that is part of the deal, and it’s fair game. We’re trusting these people to make big-time/big-$ decisions. It’s clear that you view Mr. Wilt’s actions about the leases as being open and honest and ethical. So be it.

            It’s also fine if others disagree. And where I think you crossed the line is by characterizing the views of other posters in this community, “democratic leaders”, as you call them, with the words “faux outrage”. You seem surprised that people who never intended to vote for him are outraged about this. For heavens sake, I spent 8 years being outraged by GW, and never voted for him once.

            The front-page news posts on the blog are objective. But once we get to the discussion threads, no one is being objective, and I didn’t think that anyone pretended to be. You’re not, I’m not, everyone filters their views of issues and candidates through their own lens of beliefs, values, ideas. Isn’t that the point? I often learn something from the exchange. And sometimes I even change my mind.

          • lowell fulk says:

            “But I am calling “BS” on those Democratic party officials among us who want to pretend they’re being objective on the issue of Tony’s ethics…”

            Stop with the vague accusations already. Who are you calling BS on Jeremy? I must have really missed something.

      • JGFitzgerald says:

        “What previous, completed business deals of yours might the public find interesting?” None, Jeremy. Do you know of something? If you do, please let me know. Deb recently found out in a letter to the editor that I am a good ole boy, and she wants to know where the money is. We don’t need any more surprises right now.
        Deb and I have an investment with a portfolio manager, mostly NASDAQ and DJIA stocks, that sometimes makes investments we would not have chosen. (Bank of America and AIG pop to mind, but the fund has mostly done well. Google, for instance. The last time I checked, at tax time, the fund didn’t own stock in any large polluters.) The report that includes this, and some other stock funds, and our house, and our jobs, is filed for me as a candidate at the Registrar’s Office, and for Deb as a Planning Commissioner at the City Clerk’s Office. The report does not include our two cars, with roughly a quarter million miles between them. In a perfect world, these forms would be online. The DNR, or hburgnews, or someone who has the time, should get those forms for all candidates and both post them and interpret them.

        • I have Tony Wilt’s forms…and Brent also have them because I emailed them to him…they’re in a PDF so he can post them if he likes…you know, under Virginia law, if your brother lives in your house, you’d have to report his financial interests…but if he doesn’t you don’t.

          I understand what I believe to be good reasoning behind that…although this could come under “close financial association”…but I don’t pretend to know election law.

      • lowell fulk says:

        No Jeremy, there is another one you’re not addressing. Is this purposeful?

  43. Jeremy, don’t you find it the least bit odd that the balance of the people who frequent this site agree with me, and a number of other Republicans about Wilt’s failure to disclose this matter?

    I mean, really, Jeremy. Is there something wrong with your intellectual honesty barometer?

    • Jeremy Aldrich says:

      Which Republicans?

      • republitarian says:

        I agree with Jeremy.

        • About what, Myron? That “Which Republicans?” is an important question or that those such as you who appeared to be outraged over VVF folks getting outraged over Kai not showing up there were “hollow” and “faux”?

          • Oh, that last was incoherent. Not the ones outraged over the outrage, but just the ones who were outraged. Certainly shows how hollow and faux I am… :-).

          • republitarian says:

            I think this whole election is a complete joke and embarrassment.

            …and I agree with Jeremy…in fact, I agree with everyone. I’m non-partisan now. I’m never going to be on the “wrong side” of an argument anymore.

  44. Look, there is no problem here. Wilt has been to the Valley Family Forum, and he gave this land to his brother. So, it is all in the family, consistent with his family values stance. And, hey, as STruth points out, since the natural gas might be renewed in several thousand years or so, who cares what getting it out of the ground right now does to the environment? God is on the side of family values, not to mention all conservative Publicans.

    • lowell fulk says:

      Gosh Barkley, you’re onto something here!

    • Speak Truth says:

      hey now, i merely pointed out that natural gas is something that occurs naturally in the enviroment.

      many places, including DC, advertise usage as a alternative fuel.

      i have also provided locations where it’s been drilled, and explored with “flacking” safely.

      Maybe our BofS and other concerned citizens should look at what they have done in Mt. Airy NC.

      • Speak Truth says:

        also everything, has some sort of impact on our enviroment…even “renewable” energy like wind, water, and solar power.

      • David Miller says:

        “i have also provided locations where it’s been drilled, and explored with “flacking” safely.

        No you haven’t,you posted a picture of some community’s mainstreet.

  45. MF says:

    “The second is what (if anything) candidate Wilt should have brought up about his personal involvement in hydrofracking.” I don’t expect him to put that on his website or on a flier. But I do expect him to mention it when he is being asked about his position on Hydrofracking by Jeff Merlot.

    • However, if the question were to be asked by Jeff Cabernet Sauvignon, much less Jeff Chardonnay, he would have a perfect right not to answer at all.

  46. OK…I think I’ve compiled the data of everyone, so far, that I’ve been able to find has sold mineral rights to one of six companies…

    The land taken appears to total about 16,000 acres and that is about 2.5 percent of the total land area of Rockingham County.

    There are three corporations and one LLC. You can clearly identify directors of a corporation, but with an LLC, I believe you can hide the actual players. Except this player listed a home address, so I listed the homeowner and I don’t know if he’s renting or not.

    You can view the list here:


  47. Emmy says:

    I’m confused as to why my outrage would be considered fake because I never planned to vote for Wilt. In all likelihood this man will be our next delegate and even if I don’t vote for him I will still be impacted by his decisions. Trust me, there is nothing “faux” about my outrage in this process.

  48. Wow. I walk away from the computer for a day and boom. Comment explosion.

    Thanks for compiling that spreadsheet, Dave. You’re doing the work that paid reporters should be doing.

    I’ve been hesitant to weigh in with my opinion, because I’m still formulating one.

    The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that this is a big, secret corporate takeover of Bergton, that these oil companies have hand-picked Wilt for his ties to the gas industry, and that in 20 years, Bergton will be nothing but drill rigs, slurry ponds and cancer patients. But the realist in me believes that Tony Wilt doesn’t have any gas industry agenda in mind — that he’s a pro-business, conservative Christian who is running because he feels led by God, friends, family, and business interests to serve as delegate.

    • Renee says:

      “The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that this is a big, secret corporate takeover of Bergton, that these oil companies have hand-picked Wilt for his ties to the gas industry…” – possible

      “that he’s a pro-business, conservative Christian who is running because he feels led by God, friends, family, and business interests to serve as delegate” – probable

      But I was leaning more toward the opinion that he just didn’t think about researching the potential long-term impacts of hydrofracking when choosing to lease out his land to these energy companies, which worries me because he’s now someone that could very well be making decisions on behalf of our region in Richmond.

      I don’t think he had bad intentions, either, Brent. It appears he didn’t think it through much or didn’t think it was important to disclose his involvement with the issue or give good answers when asked about it, and those things bother me since he’s now running to represent us. I want a representative that thinks these types of issues are vital and educates themselves about them thoroughly in order to make good decisions, or at least be able to fully recall and explain the reasons for having made the decision.

  49. Speak Truth says:

    in regards to full disclouser, then shouldn’t we have also expected hburgnews to let viewers of the “Q&A” sessions posted on youtube, DNR website etc, that Kai worked with the group?

    it would seem to me that hburgnews has a vested interest in one of their former writers winning a seat in the VA House of Delegates.

    • “Speak Truth,” it is (and was) disclosed here. Furthermore, all of our individual bios under the About Us, Who Are We section disclose our biases, affiliations, voting trends, special interests and connections. Does the DNR do that for their witers? I think not. Who does Jeff Mellott vote for?

      We’ve hidden nothing. You’re not using a real name. What are you hiding?

    • Renee says:

      People that have been long-time readers of hburgnews are well-aware Kai was a contributor, because it’s been mentioned in many former articles. Here is one example:

      Also, Brent has always made sure to keep a list of current and past contributors available:

      Also, Kai hasn’t written for hburgnews since July 2008 (that I know of) and has since started his own (technically competing) news outlet:

      So Kai Degner is no longer affiliated with hburgnews, has his own news blog, and besides that, I can’t see any way hburgnews would benefit from him winning. In addition hburgnews is not a partisan news blog, and authors strive to keep their opinions out of the articles and in the comments only.

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at or why you keep searching for barely-related-topics to bring up here that distract from the conversation we’re having… or why I keep responding to you when most of your comments show you do little research before making an argument… and when you don’t use a real name…

    • Renee says:

      Also, Jeremy, who is a current writer for hburgnews AND did the Q&A sessions you’re talking about, has been a main supporter of Wilt on this issue in this thread, so… your argument makes even less sense.

    • Pseudonymous user names are so 2003. Or DNR.

      Great for writing the Federalist Papers, not so great for questioning someones’ ethics on a blog.

      • Renee says:

        haha :)

        I know not everyone is into using their full names online because of privacy purposes, but true that it really reduces your credibility when questioning others.

        P.S. I don’t list my last name in comments (or most places online), but it is easy to find out who I am because I have been a contributor to hburgnews if anyone is new here and doesn’t know me and cares to find out.

      • Speak Truth says:

        I guess I’m a little curious what the outrage is then.

        as I read it, people think that Wilt has some hidden agenda, I don’t see it.

        He hide nothing. It’s all public records. He sold some rights, (years ago) like many folks that lived in that community did, he sold the land in question…years ago.

        yet, maybe he is running for office now to push it through to make money?

        • You’re evading the question I posed to you. What are you hiding? Why are you discussing ethics while using a fake name? Why don’t you “speak truth” and tell us your real name?

          You haven’t responded to my email, either.

          We’re generally pretty lax with the “no anonymous comments” rule, but you’ve worn out your welcome.

          Posting under names like “AngryMom78” or “Speak Truth” is DNR-style commenting. If that’s what you choose to do, please keep your pseudonym on the DNR editorial page where it belongs (I see you’ve been posting comments there as well).

          Until you respond to my email, you won’t be commenting here anymore.

          • Speak Truth says:

            i had no idea you emailed me. I haven’t checked my personal account all weekend…I’ll get on it.

            follow the golden rule, states limit yourself to a single screen name…i have.

            I am not hiding anything other then my name, but obviously you have access to it, since you have my email address.

            I am not sure how using my name on here, is unethical.

        • Renee says:

          “as I read it, people think that Wilt has some hidden agenda, I don’t see it.”
          ~That’s not what I think if you read my comments.

          • ST,

            Well, Wilt was not forthcoming about this until asked. Is he ethically challenged or merely incompetent? Of course, it may not matter to some voters around here would vote for a stuffed turkey if it was labeled “conservative” and “Republican.”

            BTW, ST, you should understand something. In cyberspace there is a Law of Self-Destroying Handles. How does this work? There is amazing tendency for when someone adopts a handle that seems to make some statement about a supposed virtue of the commenter, one finds out that it is completely off-base and that they end up eviscerating and undermining utterly their self-adopted handle. So, please keep that in mind if you wish to continue calling youself “Speaks Truth” around here, hack, cough.

  50. I think it would be really enlightening to hear what the landowners up in Bergton were told about shale gas production methods when they were being asked to sell their mineral rights.

    Were they made aware of how untested this new technology was?

    Were they aware that their land could be used to indefinitely store drilling waste?

    Did they know that gas production would fundamentally alter their quiet lifestyle?

    Did they know that Virginia will rely on the drilling companies word to keep them safe?

    Do they understand that a coming natural gas oversupply will leave them with shuttered gas wells, rusting pipes, haul roads cluttering their land… and NO ROYALTIES while the gas companies wait for better prices?

Reader Tweets

Latest Flickr photos in the hburgnews Flickr pool
Announcements & Press Releases
  • Friendly City Grand Opening Set for July 9

    Friendly City Food Co-Op, Harrisonburg’s consumer-owned grocery, invites the community to come see its new destination for natural, organic and locally-produced products at the store’s grand opening 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 9 at 150 East Wolfe Street.

  • Friendly City Becomes Member of National Cooperative Grocers Association

    HARRISONBURG, VA — Friendly City Food Co-op, slated to open this month in Harrisonburg, Va., has become the newest member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative serving 120 consumer-owned food co-ops nationwide.

  • Harrisonburg Recognized as a Bike Friendly Community

    May 2: Harrisonburg was honored when the League of American Bicyclists announced the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designations over the weekend to kick off May as National Bike Month.