Rebuilding WV Roads Impacted by Shale Gas Industry

by Duane Nichols on January 26, 2015

To: WV Legislature; From: Steve Conlon (Wetzel County, WV)

Subject: Rebuilding gas industry impacted roads

Sent via Email:  January 23, 2015

It is encouraging to see some concern about our gas-industry impacted roads. HB 2080 is obviously a response to this need,  a condition and a situation which is beyond the abilities of the WV Departent of Highways to rectify. Thank you for being concerned!

Some of you know me. I’ve lived in Wetzel County on a gravel/dirt road for 42 years which has given me ample time to study roads, geography and bureaucracy. Wetzel/Marshall road history could be accurately divided into  BC (before Chesapeake Energy) and AC (after Chesapeake Energy). It has now been 8 years since gas industry activity started here. Certainly we’ve “seen it all here”. Roads have been destroyed, widened, rebuilt. Sharp curves have been removed. Some homes have been removed.

Some of our roads have been in terrible condition for years and have been repaired to a much higher quality than before. Typically asphalt secondary roads get downgraded to gravel patches which are dusty and muddy. Road maintenance gets passed from the DOH to gas company sub-contractors.

Since District 6 DOH is between 50-70 employees short, we see little supervision or prodding. Few people complain or speak up. Those who do find a circuitous path to little action.

Obviously, the State is not charging the gas companies the correct amount for using our roads. HB2080 gets us the money, but it takes it out of our own pocket. If the severance tax is our profit, why should we spend it on damages they incurred. In 2007, the WV Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Highways had no idea what the “road bill” (cost) would be for each well. Now we know how many trucks, what size, what weight, and how many trips. This information can be combined with a study of the access roads to each pad  and a “road impact fee” can be calculated for every gas well. This is a very simple business calculation. The DEP and the DOH have all this information.

I have been outspoken for several years concerning funding for our road system. We are currently experiencing low fuel prices which gives legislators a perfect window for correcting inadequate road funding. Recently I have heard many “creative” funding scenarios which are seriously worrisome. I watched the Governor’s so called Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways run “dog and pony” shows and then submit a report of little value.

Fees are not taxes. We need to own up to fees. We need to very calmly have the nerve to charge the gas industry companies for their road impacts. And, I am willing to pay more for my vehicular impact. Now is the time. Bury HB 2080. Let’s try a different angle.

Thanks, I appreciate the job you do for West Virginia.

Steve Conlon, Thistledew Farm, RR 1 Box 122, Proctor, WV 26055


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