January 4, 2008
Happy New Year! As we start 2008, we wanted to provide you with a brief update of the
issues we have been following during the legislative interim meetings
and give you a quick glimpse and what we'll be working on once the
regular legislative session begins next week. We appreciate your
support and the opportunity to serve as a voice for surface owners at
the legislature. We encourage you to scroll down to learn more about
recent happenings in Charleston and elsewhere. We also welcome your
input and suggestions and look forward to working with you in the
coming months to bring about some positive changes that will favor West
Virginia surface owners. Contact us anytime by e-mailing Norm or Julie
at wvsoro.org or by calling (304) 346-5891.
"Daylighting" and Notice to Surface Owners
November legislative interim meetings, the Select Committee on
Infrastructure heard presentations from WV-SORO, the oil & gas
drillers and various state agencies on the issue of "daylighting."
"Daylighting" is cutting down extra trees in the hope that sunlight and
wind will accelerate drying of access roads. Our position is that it
rarely works and is not needed on a well constructed, re-vegetated and
properly maintained road.
Unfortunately, the committee bought the industry and WV Division of
Forestry line that "daylighting" is a widely accepted practice. As a
result the committee decided to do nothing on "daylighting" but was
interested in other issues raised in the discussion, particularly the
short (15-day) notice to surface owners before drilling commences on
In December, a lawyer for the committee presented a bill which extends
the notice to surface owners, as well as their time to comment to
30-days. The draft bill also contains a provision that gives the
Department of Environmental Protection the authority to deny a permit
if the soil erosion and sediment control plan allows more disturbance
the land than is reasonably necessary.
The bill will be considered when the Committee meets on January 7,
2008. If you haven't already, please consider contacting committee
members to tell them you support extending the time for surface owners
to comment on drillers' permits and expanding DEP's authority to deny
them due to more than minimal disturbance to the land. Tell them that
surface owners should also be notified before the driller
comes onto their property to plan or survey well sites and access roads
so that they can have some say in where wells and access roads are
Oil & Gas Drilling in State Forests
Rule-Making Review Committee is considering the adoption of a rule
proposed by the Department of Natural Resources that would provide
earlier notice to state forest officials and the public about drilling
and maintenance activities in our forests. As originally drafted by
DNR, the rule would also require re-vegetation with native plants and
limit road slopes. The oil & gas industry is working against rule
and it was pulled from the committee's agenda in both November and
December. The committee mandated a series of meetings between state
forest users and industry to negotiate a compromise and is expected to
take up the bill on January 7, 2008. With stakeholder negotiations
ongoing, there's still time to contact committee members and tell them
you support additional protections for our state forests. Click
here for more information or to contact committee members.
Surface Owners' Bill of Rights
WV-SORO began recruiting co-sponsors and talking with legislators about
a Surface Owners' Bill of Rights. WV-SORO
identified several changes that are needed to level the playing
field between operators and surface owners and ensure good stewardship
of the land and
economic fairness in the state’s oil and gas fields. These changes
• Earlier notice that the driller is coming, including requiring
notice before the driller comes on the property to survey well site,
access road or pipeline locations.
• Requiring a face-to-face meeting between the drill and the
landowner before the permit application is filed.
• Allowing for a pre-permit negotiating period to give the surface
owner input in planning and executing well site(s) and access roads,
including location, type of road construction and re-vegetation type;
and requiring mediation if the driller and surface owner cannot come to
• Ensuring fair and equitable compensation by requiring the driller
to post an individual well bond if no pre-drilling agreement is reached
between the driller and the surface owner.
• Valuing land taken for well sites, roads or pipelines at market
value, rather than the value of its current use, and requiring
compensation for the total value of the surface owner’s losses,
including adjacent land.
• Requiring the driller to offer the surface owner residential gas
service, at cost, from the wells or gathering lines on their property.
We also received valuable input from WV-SORO members at our first
regional and information meeting in Weston on December 13, 2007.
Suggestions from those in attendance on what they would like to see
incorporated into a ''Surface
Owners’ Bill of Rights,’ include holding the driller responsible for
the property taxes on the portion of
their land taken for well sites, access roads and pipelines. Others
cited concerns over noise pollution from compressor stations.
There are no regulations governing compressors or stations on gathering
pipelines from gas wells.
WV-SORO will be working on behalf of surface owners to get the
legislature to implement many of these changes during the upcoming
legislative session. We hope you will take an active role in helping us
make these changes a reality by contacting your
legislators to share your
story and tell them what you think needs
needs to be done to protect property owners from industry abuses. We
also hope you will consider attending WV-SORO Day at the Legislature on
February 6, 2008. (More details coming soon.) We also hope to hold more
regional meetings in the near future.