OPEN LETTER to WV Legislature & WV Governor

by S. Tom Bond on February 29, 2016

To: West Virginia Legislature and WV Governor

From: S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

Please vote AGAINST SB 508, SB 565, SB 596 and SB 646

I don’t know why those of you at the Legislature are showing such favoritism to the Natural Gas industry. The basic fact concerning fracking is that it costs $20-$40 a barrel of oil or gas energy equivalent to a barrel of oil more than conventional extraction. This is easy to verify. The increases in efficiency they talk about is in the amount of gas that can be obtained from a well, not cost reduction of obtaining the gas. The industry is based on bad economics.

There is plenty of gas in other countries. Russia has five and a half times a much as the United States and Iran has four times as much, both conventional – they have so much conventional, easy to remove gas that fracking is not even considered. Check it out in the CIA Handbook – they are certainly not pro-Russia or Iran! This is not to mention the Arab nations. There is a lot of it over there. After all, the U. S. has only 16% of the world’s dry land surface area.

The U. S. exported oil from the 20′s until the 1970′s and has exhausted the easy stuff to get out. That’s why we are reduced to fracking and deep sea drilling. We Americans are profligate users, too, because it has been cheap and no one has been forward looking. Our 4.4% of the world’s population now uses nearly one fifth of the gas produced (2011 figures).

As you doubtless know, oil and gas are very low right now due to over production. Many drillers are in serious trouble. Commodity speculators who went long are loosing their shirts. Saudis intend to invest to keep up production capacity. Iran is coming on line. Opposition to fracking is huge and growing.

There are many well-informed comparisons between the present situation with excess drilling capacity to the mortgage boom and bust of 2008. One recent national magazine carried the statement that “Fracking, it turns out, is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners.”The hurry to get the pipelines in is to get the investors, including big bank’s, money.

The opposition is based on direct observation, dismissed by the industry as “anecdotal.” But there are now nearly 400 studies establishing the health and environmental effects of fracking. New ones are coming out at the rate of about one a day. Language in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has stated “fracking is dangerous to the health and environment.” (1)

So this big legislative thrust to shave rural owners property values, our rights, some of which go back to English Common Law, and our comfort, is because oil and gas wants to insert a heavy industry in pristine countryside. A de facto re-zoning. It favors an uneconomic way to remove the product while industries that can go on for centuries are permanently injured. What is the discount on the food and timber our grandsons, great-grandsons and great-great-grandsons can produce on our farms in the future when the population is increasing?


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Archie February 29, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Greetings from Charleston:

Some Good News: Earlier today, SB 596, the pipeline survey access (or “right to trespass”) bill was soundly defeated on the Senate floor, with only 11 Senators voting in favor and 23 opposed.

Also SB 646, the forced leasing bill appears to be dead. After devoting the entirety of it’s 9am meeting to the bill, no action was taken and it was not placed on the agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s afternoon meeting, which was later cancelled.
We understand there is some effort afoot to revive the “right to trespass” bill. If that happens we will let you know. In the meantime, please take a few minutes to thank Senators who stood with West Virginia landowners in opposing both SB 596 and SB 508, which passed the Senate last week. You can see how your Senators voted on these bills here and here.

Then, if you haven’t already, please contact your Delegate(s) and House Judiciary and Energy Committee members and tell them to oppose SB 508 and SB 565 (see more info. on these bills and contact info. for committee members below).

Thank you for contacting your legislators about these terrible bills and making your voices heard. We must keep the pressure on.

— Julie Archer, WV Surface Owners Rights Organization

Several Bad Bills Continue to Work Their Way Through the Legislature ~ Please Take Action

Last week we told you about three terrible bills working their way through the Legislature that help oil and gas drillers at the expense of West Virginia landowners. In this update, we’ll fill you in on where these bills are in the process and let you know about two other bills that have gotten momentum since then.

The most concerning is SB 508, a bill that undermines our property rights by taking away the ability to file nuisance suits against oil and gas drillers and others whose activities devalue and interfere with our enjoyment and use of our property. This bill has passed the Senate and is now in the House Judiciary Committee. (Read more here and here.)

If SB 508 passes, property owners would be left with no legal recourse to hold irresponsible neighbors accountable for their actions. We can’t let the Legislature take this right away. Learn more and send a message to Delegates telling them to “Vote No on SB 508,” or send a personalized email to all committee members by copying the list below and pasting into your email ‘To’ field:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Another bill that has passed the Senate is SB 565, which would allow drillers to build well pads and access roads on a surface owners land without getting a we’ll work permit. Instead, drillers would apply to build the pad and roads under a general water pollution control permit for oil and gas related construction activities issued by the DEP Division of Water and Waste Management (DWWM). There are two problems with this.
First, Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) are not engineer approved, or subject to an engineering review by the DEP. SWPPPs are only intended to control sediment and DWWM only reviews the plans for how well they will keep sediment from the construction site from entering rivers and streams.

Second, the stormwater permit is only in effect during construction. This means if the pad or access roads are poorly built and problems arise after construction is complete, and the driller has not yet applied for and received a well work permit, the DEP may be left with no way to make the driller correct these problems.

The good news is that DEP Secretary Randy Huffman has voiced opposition to SB 565, which is now before the House Energy Committee. Here are email address for House Energy Committee members:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

The other bill told you about last week, was a bill advanced by the House Energy Committee approved a bill that would allow drillers to lease jointly owned or heirship mineral tracts if a simple majority of owners agree to sign – changing existing common law that currently requires all owners with an interest in tract to sign before a company can execute a lease. (Read more here.) HB 4639 appeared to be on the fast track, but on Monday the House voted to send the bill to the House Judiciary Committee for further scrutiny and by the end of the week was declared dead by Delegate Woody Ireland, whose committee had originated the bill. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that an even worse version of this forced leasing legislation is now moving in the Senate. Like, HB 4639, for surface owners who only control a small portion of the minerals under their property, SB 646 would allow the wishes of these surface owners to be ignored if a little more than 50 percent of their co-owners in the mineral tract make a deal with the gas company. Additionally, SB 646 would allow tracts to be pooled into units without surface or mineral owner agreement, and allow a surface owner’s land to be used for one of those monster pads for horizontal drilling even if there was a “no surface use” lease. The bill says, “The operator’s use of any surface tract overlying the jointly developed leases shall be permissible for that joint development.”

As the WV Royalty Owners said in a statement last week, “This isn’t just forced pooling, this is forced pooling on steroids. Last year some [legislators] were concerned that force pooling would force 20 percent to lease. This bill forces 49.9 percent to lease with no prohibition of deductions, no depth or target formation limitations, no surface protection, and no recourse against the driller.”

Like SB 508, SB 646 is yet another shameful attempt to take away the property rights of West Virginians. This terrible bill is on the Senate Judiciary Committee Agenda today at 3PM. Please contact Senate Judiciary Committee members and your Senators and tell them to “Vote No on SB 646.” Here are emails for the Senate Judiciary Committee members:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Earlier in the week, this Committee passed out SB 596, which would give pipeline companies planning the interstate pipeline projects the right to access private property for the purpose of surveying without getting landowner permission. Currently, there are several such pipeline projects at various stages of development that will cross portions of West Virginia. The bill effectively reverses a Monroe County circuit court decision regarding survey access for these pipeline projects.

The pipeline companies had been relying on and citing West Virginia’s eminent domain statute saying it gave them survey access before an eminent domain proceeding has been initiated. That statute says eminent domain can only can only be for a “public purpose”.

In the Monroe County case, the judge ruled that the Mountain Valley pipeline was not for a public purpose and therefore the pipeline company didn’t have a right to survey people’s land without their permission.

SB 596 gives pipeline companies who have made application and been assigned a docket number by FERC the right to enter for survey activities. The bill does require notice to all owners and occupants 15-60 days before entry, requirements that do not currently exist. The bill also limits surveyors to the use of hand to hand tools, and prevents driving or parking motor vehicle on the property without permission.

SB 596 is up for a vote by the full Senate later today. (Read more here and here.)

That’s it for now. We’ll continue to keep you posted, so stay tuned.

Julie Archer, Project Manager
WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization
1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, WV 25311
(304) 346-5891,


JUDY March 3, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Good news about SB 596.

[This WV Senate Bill would have permitted natural gas companies (and their surveyors) to enter upon real property of residents without authority. It was defeated.]


S. Thomas Bond March 6, 2016 at 12:32 pm


Sen. Ron Miller informed me that the bill forcing land fills to take fracking waste had become a recylcing bill. However others have said it is back to committee and the original intent is being reinstalled.

Connie Lewis of Environmental Council informs me “three of these bills are dead:
596 defeated on floor of Senate & 646 died in Senate Judiciary —
565 dropped from consideration. House Energy plans no more meetings this session”

We must be thankful for the few that are in a position to understand and can keep up. Without them, the rest of us had as well be left out of the law makng process, inspite of our nominal democracy organization. The special interests have it all over the general public is bringing their weight to bear.


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