February 5, 2010
Time to Speak Out: Can You Join Us at the Capitol?
Over the past couple of weeks we have been working to recruit sponsors for a slightly pared down version of our Surface Owners’ Bill of Rights that we are calling the Surface Owners’ Rights Recognition Act. Our supporters in the legislature believe this compromise bill will improve our chance of gaining some rights for surface owners this year. We expect the bill to be introduced next week.
We need your help if we want to ensure that surface owners' rights are recognized and respected.
Here’s what you can do:
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 is Farm Bureau and Forestry Association Day at the Legislature. If you are a member of either of these organizations and plan to attend we hope you will meet with your legislators while you’re in town to urge their support. If you’re not a Farm Bureau or Forestry Association member, we hope you will join us in Charleston that day, or any day during the next couple weeks, to meet with your legislators. A face-to-face meeting and your first-hand accounts of needless destruction of timber, lost home sites, destructive road building and ruined pastures caused by drillers can have a big impact. Call Norm or Julie at 1-866-WVB-FAIR or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to make appointments with your legislators and show you around the Capitol. Invite your friends and neighbors to come with you. The more landowners and voters legislators meet and hear from, the more seriously they are going to take this issue.
If you’re unable to join us please contact your Delegate(s) and Senators. Let them know how you've been treated. Let them know that the rights and interests of West Virginia surface owners' need to be protected. Tell them to support and pass the Surface Owners’ Rights Recognition Act this year. Make your voice heard! Call toll-free 1-877-565-3447 or click here for other ways to contact your legislators.
We hope to hear from you and see you in the next couple of weeks so that we can all make a difference in protecting our property rights.
Provisions of the 2010 Surface Owners' Rights Recognition Act
•Requires drillers to give 10 days notice to the surface owners before coming on to the land to start planning a well site and access road(s). This notice must include:
- An offer to meet with the surface owner.
- Copies of all applicable statutes and rules regarding permitting, soil erosion and sediment control, and damage compensation.
•Requires the driller to offer a "surface use and compensation agreement" to be negotiated with the landowner before the driller applies for the well work permit. The agreement would set out information such as the following:
•If the surface owner and driller cannot come to an agreement, the driller must post the single well bond provided by existing law, instead of using the blanket bond that already covers the driller’s other wells. The driller can move the new well under its blanket bond when the damages are settled, or after two years, which ever comes first.
- The location of the well site and associated access road(s), impoundments, pits and pipelines, and how these will be built, maintained and reclaimed.
- How the driller plans to use and dispose of the water needed to drill and fracture the well.
- Proposed financial compensation for damages.
•Failure by the operator to comply with the preceding requirements allows the surface owner to recover three times their actual damages.
•Gives DEP the authority to deny a permit if the operator is in violation of an existing permit or rule, even if an inspector has not had time to write an official "violation" yet. (The Office of Oil and Gas has only 16 inspectors who must cover 55,000 existing wells and review from 1,000 to 3,000 new permits a year. Click here to read about ProPublica's investigation which compares the rapid expansion of drilling in 22 states, including West Virginia, with staffing levels at the agencies charged with policing the wells. The investigation found State Oil and Gas Regulators Are Spread Too Thin to Do Their Jobs.
•Requires the future location of pipelines to be shown on the reclamation plan, in addition to the well site and access road(s).
•Requires the operator of existing wells to notify the surface owner by phone, mail or personal visit any time before coming out to the land for any purpose other than crossing it to get to other surface land. The surface owner can waive this requirement in a written agreement.
•Requires soil erosion and sediment control plans for both plugging and drilling permits. Current law does not require soil erosion and sediment control plans for permits to plug wells.
New Website Feature on Damage Compensation
"How much money can I get from a driller for placing a well site and access road(s) on my land?"
This is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive from members and others who contact WV-SORO for advice. We are adding a new page to our website discussing on damage compensation and the different ways surface owners' can get compensation from a driller. The page does not give specific monetary amounts because our efforts to find a good answer as to what you should settle for did not yield useful results, but we hope you will still find it helpful.
You can access this an other recent additions from our home page, on the right-hand side below "Meetings & Events."