Can WV Legislators Get Fracking Money for Road Maintenance?

by Duane Nichols on January 17, 2016

Wetzel County has Severe Road Issues

West Virginia Delegates Want Fracking Money For Road Repairs

From an Article by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, January 16, 2016

Wheeling, WV – West Virginia leaders collected about $18 million from leasing mineral tracts beneath the Ohio River and state parks for fracking, but a bipartisan bill in the House of Delegates would require money from future projects to fund road repairs.

In 2014, officials with the state Department of Commerce began soliciting bids from companies to drill and frack on state-owned land under the river in Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties. Eventually, state officials signed drilling contracts with Noble Energy, Antero Resources, Statoil and Southwestern Energy Co., according to documents at the commerce department’s website.

The money for these leases went to the Division of Natural Resources, an arm of the commerce department, for improving state parks. However, a number of legislators – many of them from the Northern Panhandle – want funds generated from any future mineral leases beneath the river to help repair roads.

“It will be hard to get to the parks if the roads leading to them are in bad shape,” said Delegate Erikka Storch, among the bill’s co-sponsors.

The legislation, House Bill 2977, states that lease and royalty revenue gained from mineral leases for property beneath the state’s rivers and streams that were entered after July 1, 2015 will go to the State Road Fund. Money obtained for agreements entered before this date would stay with the DNR, the bill states.

Others signing on as co-sponsors of HB 2977 are Delegates David Evans, R-Marshall; Ryan Weld, R-Brooke; Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock; Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; Mike Ferro, D-Marshall; Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer; and Gary Howell, R-Mineral,

Northern Panhandle lawmakers have long complained about the condition of state roads and bridges. Trucks carrying oversized loads – including natural gas, equipment, chemicals, pipelines or other materials involved in the fracking industry – regularly use these roads.

Some roads that see the largest impact from natural gas industry include Dallas Pike Road, GC&P Road, Stone Church Road, and Oklahoma Road in Ohio County; W.Va. 88, W.Va. 67, and Apple Pie Ridge in Brooke County; U.S. 250, W.Va. 88, Walnut Grove Road, Greenfield Ridge Road, Roberts Ridge Road, Fork Ridge Road and Fish Creek Road in Marshall County; and Macedonia Road, St. Joseph Road, W.Va. 89, Brock Ridge Road in Wetzel County.

“I think it’s reasonable to ask that we use some of this money to fix our roads,” Storch added.

Upon introduction, the bill went to the Committee on Roads and Transportation for consideration. It would also need to go to the Finance Committee before heading to the full House for a vote.

[[ In other matters Friday, in a party-line vote, a Republican-led Senate panel has cleared a push to make West Virginia the 26th right-to-work state.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure Friday to prohibit requiring paying union dues as a condition of employment. Democrats and unions say the bill undermines unions without any clear benefit. Republicans say it's about worker freedom and trying to create jobs in one of the country's most struggling states.

On Friday, state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said West Virginia should instead focus on addressing critical problems, including lack of flat land, infrastructure problems and an undereducated workforce.

Hundreds of union employees protested the legislation Wednesday at the Capitol, the first day of the 60-day legislative session. The full Senate may vote on the bill next week. ]]

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