WV SORO Update Archive

February 14, 2010

What's In This Week's Update?

To be sure you don't miss anything here's a list of everything in this week's update:

Surface Owners' Rights Recognition Act Introduced

Our 'Surface Owners’ Rights Recognition Act' has been introduced in both houses.  In the House it is HB 4408, sponsored by Delegate Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor).  On the Senate Side, Senator Larry Edgell (D-Wetzel) is the sponsor of SB 529.  The bill is a more modest version of the 'Surface Owners' Bill of Rights.'

We feel strongly that the provisions in the Surface Owners' Bill of Rights are reasonable and we remain committed to working toward getting those into law. However, we were hearing from our supporters in the legislature that we were trying to accomplish too much at once. The Surface Owners' Rights Recognition Act is a compromise that we and our sponsors believe will help us overcome industry opposition and get some rights for surface owners this year.

Key provisions of the Surface Owners' Rights Recognition Act include:

•Requiring 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 to discuss the drillers plans.

•Requiring the driller to negotiate a "surface use and compensation agreement" with the landowner before the driller applies for the well work permit.  The agreement would set out the location of the well site and associated access road(s), impoundments, pits and pipelines, and how these will be built, maintained and reclaimed.  The agreement would also specify proposed financial compensation for damages.

See last week's update or click here for more information on HB 4408 and SB 529. Click here to read an Associated Press article about this and other legislation to reign in oil and gas drilling. 

Surface owners' rights legislation is supported by the WV AFL-CIO, the WV Council of Churches and the WV Environmental Council.  While all this organizational support is great, we still need you to call, email or personally visit your legislators and tell them why the it's important to you that they support and pass legislation to ensure that the rights of West Virginia surface owners are recognized and respected by oil and gas well drillers.  Click here to contact your legislators.

We also want to encourage you to contact the members of the House Judiciary Committee (below) and the Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee (below) to urge support and get the committee members to take up our bill.  We’ve provided lists of the committee members and their contact information below to make it easy for you.

Finally, if you would like to thank Delegate Manypenny, Senator Edgell and the co-sponsors of HB 4408 and SB 529 for their efforts on behalf of West Virginia surface owners, here is a complete list of sponsors along with their contact information. 

Sponsors of HB 4408
Delegate Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) ~ (304) 340-3139, mmany@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) ~ (304) 340-3169, barbaraf@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Tal Hutchins (D-Ohio) ~ (304) 340-3270, t.hutchins@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Dale Martin (D-Putnam) ~ (304) 340-3134, dale.martin@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Terry Walker (D-Jefferson) ~ (304) 304-3274, terry.walker@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Sally Susman (D-Raleigh) ~ (304) 340-3183, ssusman@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Alex Shook (D-Monongalia) ~ (304) 340-3173, ashook@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Ricky Moye (D-Raleigh) ~ (304) 340-3162, rickymoye@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Clif Moore (D-McDowell) ~ (304) 340-3189, cmoore@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Brady Paxton (D-Putnam) ~ (304) 340-3337, bpaxton@mail.wvnet.edu

Sponsors of SB 529
Senator Larry Edgell (D-Wetzel) ~ (304) 357-7827, larry.edgell@wvsenate.gov
Senator Randy White (D-Webster) ~ (304) 357-7906, randy.white@wvsenate.gov
Senator Clark Barnes (R-Randolph) ~ (304) 357-7973, clark.barnes@wvsenate.gov
Senator Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) ~ (304) 357-7880, jeff.kessler@wvsenate.gov
Senator Erik Wells (D-Kanawha) ~ (304) 357-7841, erik.wells@wvsenate.gov
WV Farm Bureau Requests Retraction

Following the introduction of the Surface Owners’ Rights Recognition Act (HB 4408 and SB 529), WV-SORO sent out a press release about the bill and what we hope to accomplish this legislative session.  At the end of the release, we mentioned other organizations that have expressed support for or that have a policy statement supporting surface owners’ rights legislation to show that there is broad support for ensuring the rights of West Virginia landowners are recognized and respected by oil and gas well drillers.  One of the organizations mentioned was the WV Farm Bureau.  On Friday, we received a call from the Farm Bureau asking us for a retraction. 

Our release did not say that the Farm Bureau had endorsed the Surface Owners’ Rights Recognition Act.  It simply said:

“Surface owners’ rights also has the support of the WV AFL-CIO, the WV Council of Churches, the WV Environmental Council and the WV Farm Bureau.”

Perhaps our release could have been clearer and we should have started the sentence as follows:
“Although they have not endorsed a specific bill, surface owners’ rights…”

However, the Farm Bureau does in fact have a written policy statement supporting private property and surface owners’ rights with regard to oil and gas drilling.  As WV-SORO and Farm Bureau member Rich Niehaus wrote in our last newsletter, this statement was unanimously approved by over 200 voting member delegates who attended the Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Flatwoods last fall.  This and other Farm Bureau policies were developed through a “grassroots” process that began with recommendations from individual members at the county level.

Rich wrote in his article, “The WV Farm Bureau recognizes the rights of mineral owners and their lessees to extract mineral resources in a fair manner, but feels it is imperative that the landowner [farmer], who derives a livelihood from agricultural products produced on the surface land, be protected from possible abusive practices from mineral extractors.”

We have no doubt that the WV Farm Bureau’s grassroots members, especially those of you who are also members of WV-SORO, support us on this issue.  But what about the Farm Bureau leadership?

If you are a WV Farm Bureau member, please contact the leadership in Buckhannon at 1-800-398-4630.  Ask them to clarify their position on surface owners’ rights and ask them what they are doing in Charleston to protect and further those rights.
Oil and Gas Rule Weakened in 'Hallway Deal'

If you are a member of the West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC), read the blogs at the Charleston Gazette and/or listen or watch to West Virginia Public Broadcasting you've probably already heard about the “hallway deal” between industry and DEP brokered by the Senator Joe Minard (D-Harrison) that weakened the requirement in the oil and gas rule that required drilling waste pits and impoundments to use impermeable synthetic liners.

We thought we that the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee advanced the rule during the January interims without changes, but we expected it to be an uphill battle to ensure that the rule wasn't weakened by industry as it worked its way through the legislative process. Little did we know that it had already been weakened without our and many of the committee members' knowledge. 

You can read WVEC Legislative Coordinator Don Garvin's account of how the deal went down here

Don's article prompted Ken Ward to write a post about it at the Gazette's Sustained Outrage blog and Erica Peterson did a story for West Virginia Public Broadcasting that was featured on the Legislature Today and on Public Radio's local morning news segment.  You can read, listen or watch more here, here and here or access links at www.wvsoro.org. The Public Broadcasting story features WV-SORO co-founder Dave McMahon. You can read a more recent Associated Press article with the latest here.

The rule is now before the House Judiciary Committee. Please contact committee members and ask them to require that all pits and impoundments be lined, without exception.  Urge them to strengthen the rule to make it more protective of the environment and human health. See below for a list of members and contact information.

Winter Edition of Surface Owners' News Available

The Winter 2010 issue of Surface Owners' News is now online.  For those of you who receive our e-mail updates, most of the content will be familiar. However, if you would like to check it out it is available here
House Judiciary Committee Members
(Bold indicates sponsors of the Surface Owners' Rights Recognition Act.)

Delegate Tim Miley (D-Harrison), Chair ~ (304) 340-3252, tim.miley@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Mark Hunt (D-Kanawha, Vice Chair ~ (304) 340-3392, mhunt@markahunt.com
Delegate Larry Barker (D-Boone) ~ (304) 340-3149, larry.barker@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Bonnie Brown (D-Kanawha) ~ (304) 340-3106, bonnie.brown@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Mike Caputo (D-Marion) ~ (304) 340-3249, mike.caputo@wvhouse.gov
Delegate John Ellem (R- Wood) ~ (304) 340-3394, ellem@wirefire.com
Delegate Michael Ferro (D-Marshall) ~ (304) 340-3111, mike.ferro@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) ~ (304) 340-3169, barbaraf@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate John Frazier (D-Mercer) ~ (304) 340-3396, jfrazier@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Bill Hamilton (R-Upshur) ~ (304) 340-3167, bill.hamilton@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Tal Hutchins (D-Ohio) ~ (304) 340-3270, t.hutchins@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha) ~ (304) 340-3275, patrick.lane@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Linda Longstreth (D-Marion) ~ (304) 340-3124, linda.longstreth@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Harold Michael (D-Hardy) ~ (304) 340-3340, Harold@hardynet.com
Delegate Cliff Moore (D-McDowell) ~ (304) 340-3189, cmoore@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate John Overington (R-Berkeley) ~ (304) 340-3148, john@overington.com
Delegate Mike Ross (D-Randolph) ~ (304) 340-3145, mikeross@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Robert Schadler (R-Mineral) ~ (304) 340-3191, rschadler@comcast.net
Delegate Patti Schoen (R-Putnam) ~ (304) 340-3141, pschoen@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Alex Shook (D-Monongalia) ~ (304) 340-3173, ashook@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha) ~ (304) 340-3362, doug.skaff@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell) ~ (304) 340-3175, kelli.sobonya@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Sally Susman (D-Raleigh) ~ (304) 340-3183, ssusman@mail.wvnet.edu
Delegate Danny Wells (D-Kanawha) ~ (304) 340-3287, danny.wells@wvhouse.gov
Delegate Bill Wooton (D-Raleigh) ~ (304) 340-3164, wrwooton@mail.wvnet.edu
Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee Members
(Bold indicates sponsors of the Surface Owners' Rights Recognition Act.)

Senator Mike Green (D – Raleigh), Chair ~ (304) 357-7831, mike.green@wvsenate.gov
Senator Doug Facemire (D-Lewis), Vice Chair ~ (304) 357-7845, douglas.facemire@wvsenate.gov
Senator Frank Deem (R - Wood) - (304) 357-7970, fdeem@mail.wvnet.edu
Senator John Pat Fanning (D - McDowell) ~ (304) 357-7867, john.fanning@wvsenate.gov
Senator Jesse O. Guills (R - Greenbrier) - (304) 357-7959, jesse.guills@wvsenate.gov
Senator Walt Helmick (D - Pocahontas) ~ (304) 357-7980, walt.helmick@wvsenate.gov
Senator Evan Jenkins (D - Cabell) ~ (304) 357-7956, evan.jenkins@wvsenate.gov
Senator Jeff Kessler (D - Marshall) ~ (304) 357-7880, jeff.kessler@wvsenate.gov
Senator Joe Minard (D-Harrison) ~ (304) 357-7904, joe.minard@wvsenate.gov
Senator Ron Stollings (D - Boone) - (304) 357-7939, ron.stollings@verizon.net
Senator Dave Sypolt (R - Preston) - (304) 357-7914, davesypolt@wvsenate.com
Senator Bob Williams (D - Monongalia) - (304) 357-7995, bob.williams@wvsenate.gov
Senator Jack Yost (D-Brooke) ~ (304) 357-7984, jack.yost@wvsenate.gov

West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25311