Shale Industry Impacts on WV Roads Big Topic at WVONGA Meeting

WV roadway with potholes

The condition of roads in West Virginia, and how/why they are as bad as they are, was a big topic on Day Two of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) spring meeting. A rep from the WV Dept. of Transportation talked with oil and gas folks about WV roads and what can be done. Much of the conversation, judging from reports, revolved around perceptions.
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WV Gov. Justice Blames Shale for Bad Roads, Wants Higher Taxes

WV Gov. Jim Justice

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is turning out to be a major disappointment. He’s pro-coal (because much of his personal fortune comes from coal), and increasingly anti-shale. The latest evidence is an attack on the shale industry claiming shale is responsible for the poor condition of roadways in the Mountain State.
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WV Wants to Extend I-68 Another 73 Miles for Shale Industry

Some 15 elected West Virginia officials met on Monday with the Route 2 | I-68 Authority. The aim of the meeting is to move the ball down the field (or the asphalt along the ground) in an effort to expand Route 2 to four lanes from Parkersburg, WV to Chester, WV, and to extend Interstate 68 from I-79 near Morgantown, WV westward to WV Route 2 along the Ohio River Valley, some 73 miles. The reason for the $1 billion project? To handle more shale-related traffic.
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PA Senate Bill Encourages Use of Conventional Brine on Roadways

A bill under active consideration in the Pennsylvania Senate would remove the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) prohibition against using brine from conventional oil and gas wells on PA’s roadways (see DEP Continues to Block Use of Brine on PA Dirt Roads). This past spring the DEP notified townships they could no longer use brine, a cheap source of “road salt” for deicing roads and (in liquid form) for spreading on dirt roads to keep the dust down. Brine from shale wells has never been allowed on PA’s roads–so this only concerns conventional drillers/wells. The move by DEP to block brine use, among other DEP actions, angered the industry and led to bills being introduced by both the House and Senate that “roll back” (more like “lock in”) regulations that govern conventional PA drilling to the Oil and Gas Act of 1984 (see 2 PA Bills Would Roll Back Conventional Drilling Regs to 1984). The House already passed their version of the bill back in June (see PA House Passes Bill Exempting Conventional Drillers from Shale Regs). The corresponding Senate bill is now being discussed. Part of the bill, if passed, tells the DEP it must “encourage” (not ban) the use of conventional brine…
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OH Town Threatens to Sue Ascent Resources re Road & Lease Issues

The mayor of Bloomingdale, OH, in Jefferson County, wants Ascent Resources to “come to the table for more fair arrangements on leases, road use agreements and fixing already-damaged roads.” The mayor and the village council are threatening to sue Ascent if they don’t “come to the table.” In other words, pay up or else. What has Ascent done to anger the mayor and village? Primarily the issue involves RUMAs–road use maintenance agreements. Some roads the village says Ascent uses have been damaged and the village wants them fixed. They also want a new agreement in place to pay for more fixes in the future. The mayor also says Ascent is using pressure tactics in leasing land from village residents. Some one-third of the village is now leased. These problems have been going on for about a year now, and the situation seems to be coming to a head…
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Report: Utica Drillers Spend $300M (so far) on Fixing Ohio Roads

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and Energy In Depth (EID) Ohio recently published a new report that shows Utica drillers have spent more than $300 million in eight Ohio counties from 2011 until earlier this year improving and fixing 630 miles of Ohio’s roadways. The study, titled “Ohio’s Oil & Gas Industry Road Improvement Payments” (full copy below) takes a close look at Road Usage Maintenance Agreements (RUMAs) in eight counties. You read that right. The O&G industry has spent over $300 million in eight counties over the past seven years. That’s $300 million in PRIVATE (not government-confiscated-via-taxes) money to fix up roads. Those living in eastern Ohio are lucky dogs…
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New Infrastructure Group Makes Gives Shale Industry Helping Hand

The TriState Infrastructure Council (TSIC) was founded in Pittsburgh in late 2016 to “serve a broad-based business community during the critical next few years by attracting and deploying investments in infrastructure projects in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.” With infrastructure upgrades, the region will be able to realize economic growth resulting from petrochemical manufacturing and related industries in the Appalachian basin. One of the driving forces behind TSIC is a name you are likely familiar with: Kathryn Klaber. Katie Klaber founded and until a few years ago led the Marcellus Shale Coalition. She opted to focus on her consulting practice following the MSC and is now managing the TSIC. The TSIC organization was founded with a group of A-list companies located in the region. At this week’s Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction conference in Pittsburgh, Katie unveiled an exciting new project to map infrastructure in an 82-county region throughout the Ohio River Valley. The aim is to identify missing/key/critical infrastructure components and then work to set up public-private partnerships to get those components built. The TSIC is looking at “electric transmission and distribution, pipelines, natural gas and natural gas liquid storage capacity, reliable locks and dams, rail networks, roads and bridges, water and sewer, building sites, barge loading/unloading facilities, broadband, fiber optics, and air service, among others.” And yes, the Marcellus/Utica shale is the linchpin that holds it all together–makes it all possible–and the raison d’être for the TSIC. Here’s more on the new infrastructure database, the TSIC, and how they are giving the shale industry a big assist…
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Gulfport Spending $8M to Rebuild OH Roads Before They Use Them

road repairOne of the arguments sometimes trotted out by anti-drillers is that heavy trucks lumbering up and down rural roads will destroy them. And indeed, sometimes it does–when the road is old or not constructed to handle heavy truck traffic. Typically drillers will repair the roads to better-than-new condition–we’ve seen it in some PA counties. But here’s something you don’t often hear: Gulfport Energy is about to spend $8 million on road repairs to roads BEFORE they use them, not after. The repairs will be done over the next six weeks in Belmont County, OH, and it delights Belmont County Commission members. Somebody else footing the bill for rebuilt roads will put a smile on any county commissioner’s face…
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Chesapeake Refuses to Fix OH Road, Town Terminates RUMA

Chesapeake Energy has told Franklin Township (Columbiana County), OH to stuff their RUMA where the sun doesn’t shine, in so many words. A RUMA is a Road Use Maintenance Agreement under which a driller agrees to maintain certain roadways in a town or county that they’re using to access drill pads. When you run heavy trucks over roads constantly, it damages the roads. Chessy had such an agreement with Franklin Township and since they aren’t drilling right now (any more?) in the town, they refused to fix a road Franklin thought they should fix. So Franklin has terminated the RUMA. Next step–lower the weight limit for trucks on the roads and bar Chesapeake trucks from using them. We wonder if Chessy has ever heard the phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face”…
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Another Supply Chain Success Story: Flagger Force

The ingenuity of small business people never ceases to amaze us–especially that of small businesses finding ways to serve, and profit from, the Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling industry. In business circles it’s called the “supply chain”–those companies who find ways of profiting from drilling. The latest company to do so is Flagger Force–a company based in Lancaster County, PA that sends out flaggers (to control traffic) in many surround states beside Pennsylvania. Flagger Force is also a major vendor for drillers in PA…
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Study Says Each PA Well Creates $5-$10K+ in Road Damages

A new study recently published in the peer reviewed Journal of Infrastructure Systems from a half dozen students and professors, some of them working for RAND Corporation, attempts to answer the question, How much road damage due to truck traffic happens in Pennsylvania–and how much does it cost? The study, titled “Estimating The Consumptive Use Costs of Shale Natural Gas Extraction on Pennsylvania Roadways” (full copy embedded below), was submitted for consideration a year ago–in March 2013. It was accepted by the Journal in November and finally published in their February 2014 issue.

The folks doing the research are smart–members of the American Society of Civil Engineers–we don’t dispute their credentials. What did they find? Using estimates of how many truck trips it takes to drill a well from data collected by the New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (yes, NY data where there is no shale drilling), the authors estimate that for more frequently traveled state and local roads in PA the damage amounts to an average of $5,000 to $10,000 per well drilled. If you include less-traveled rural roads, that number jumps to $13,000 to $23,000 per well average…
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WV Roads in Need of Repair – Fracking to Blame?

There are a number of roadways in Marshall County and other WV counties with active Marcellus and Utica drilling in need of repair. There is no doubt frequent truck traffic related to the drilling industry is partially at fault. However, truck traffic coupled with a brutally cold winter, seems to have made it worse. Not that roads in many WV communities were pristine to begin with! Just ask any driller operating in WV–the roads in WV suck. There’s just no nice way of saying it. They were not good before drilling, so drilling is not totally to blame.

Still, drilling truck traffic has made it worse. So the industry should pay for repairs, right? Well…they already do. It’s called a 5% severance tax paid by drillers on everything they produce. The drillers are certainly paying it. If the state is not sharing that money with local counties for much-needed road repairs–that’s not the drillers’ fault…
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RUMA – Columbiana County, OH Enjoys Improved Roadways

Let’s RUMA! No, it’s not the latest dance craze. RUMA stands for Road-Use Maintenance Agreement which are contracts used by counties in Ohio to ensure roads damaged or potentially damaged by heavy equipment being moved for shale drilling and pipeline work is either prevented or repaired.

Thanks to 84 different RUMAs in Columbiana County, OH put in place since 2011, county residents are enjoying miles and miles of revamped roads–all paid for by the drilling industry and not taxpayers. Thank you Utica Shale!…
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GreenHunter’s Wheeling Frack Wastewater Facility Hits a Snag

GreenHunter Water, which is building a frack wastewater recycling (and potentially barging) facility in Wheeling, WV, has hit a snag. So far, it’s a pretty big snag. Last year the company received approval from the Wheeling Planning Commission to proceed with the plant, after initial resistance. So far, the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has not issued any permits because they won’t and don’t need to review the plant until it’s ready to start operating. Then they’ll visit and evaluate.

However, the WV Dept. of Transportation’s Division of Highways (DOH) has rejected GreenHunter’s plan to have trucks with frack wastewater entering and exiting the plant. The DOH rejection happened last August and according to the DOH, they haven’t heard a thing from GreenHunter since…
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PA’s Roads Vastly Improved – Thanks to Marcellus Drilling

The new president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Dave Spigelmyer, has hit the ground running. He’s making the rounds (recently in Scranton, see Cabot’s Big CNG Celebration at Johnson College in Scranton, PA). Now, he’s hitting the editorial pages of major state newspapers, like the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

In an editorial published yesterday, Spigelmyer makes a strong case for the enormous positive impact shale drilling has had on the state’s infrastructure–roads in particular. He points out over the past several years Marcellus drillers have spent 3/4 of a billion dollars to improve PA’s roadways. That’s money that didn’t come out of taxpayers’ pockets. And in addition to now $400+ million raised from an impact fee/tax, another $1.8 billion has flowed in to local and state coffers from taxes on Marcellus-related activities. It’s hard to overstate the huge economic impact the drilling industry has had in PA…
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