Senate Bill No. 314
(By Senators Kessler (Acting President), Edgell, Beach and Klempa)
[Introduced January 27, 2011; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and then to the Committee on Finance.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §17C-17C-1, §17C-17C-2, §17C-17C-3, §17C-17C-4, §17C-17C-5 and §17C-17C-6, all relating to creation of the Temporary Natural Gas Resources Transportation Road System; providing legislative findings; creating regulatory program; defining certain terms; requiring Division of Highways to establish vehicle weight and size limits for public highways, including natural gas resource transportation roads; providing for temporary designation of natural gas resource transportation roads; requiring certification of natural gas permitting areas by the Department of Environmental Protection to Division of Highways; requiring exchange of certain information between agencies; requiring certain road signs; providing for toll-free telephone line for public reporting of poor driving or violations; authorizing the Public Service Commission to administer the special permit program and to enforce this article; authorizing Public Service Commission to inspect certain trucking records; requiring study and report on commercial vehicle safety-related issues; authorizing emergency and legislative rules to effectuate purposes of the article; authorizing the Public Service Commission to issue permits and establish training and other requirements; authorizing Division of Highways to issue permits and establish certain requirements; requiring all natural gas well owners to obtain permit; providing that natural gas well owners are responsible for contractors; providing that all natural gas well owners in an area are responsible for the cost of road maintenance and repair; providing for suspension, revocation and modification of permits; providing for cease and desist orders in the interest of public safety; requiring accident reporting; and creating penalties for failing to report accidents.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §17C-17C-1, §17C-17C-2, §17C-17C-3, §17C-17C-4, §17C-17C-5 and §17C-17C-6, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 17C. CREATION AND REGULATION OF NATURAL GAS RESOURCE TRANSPORTATION ROADS.
§17C-17C-1. Legislative findings and creation of program.
(a) The Legislature finds and declares that:
(1) The vast potential for the development of the Marcellus Shale and other natural gas formations underlying West Virginia through the use of new exploration and production techniques currently has, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact upon the citizens of this state, providing an economic force and affecting the social construct and day-to-day life and environment of the people and communities of this state where the drilling and development occur.
(2) The historic progression of the natural gas industry and its potential for growth as the Marcellus Shale and other natural gas formations are tapped for unprecedented gas production results in an increasing use of the public highways of this state for the transportation of the massive drilling equipment, enormous amounts of water, sand, chemicals and other materials, both benign and hazardous. Roads where such equipment and materials are transported are mainly two-lane rural roads and highways of varying grades and conditions. The daily presence of large commercial motor vehicles on these roads and highways causes significant impact to local communities and the local transportation infrastructure. Local residents are exposed on a daily basis to the dangers associated with sharing narrow rural roads with a large number of these vehicles.
(3) Although the development and drilling phases of natural gas production are generally for a period of one year or less, the effects of the development on the citizens and the infrastructure are acute and significant. The increased capacity and ability of the commercial vehicles to haul the equipment and materials necessary for the development of these well sites, tied with increased economic pressures to bring the wells on line as quickly as possible, have created economic incentives for transporting large quantities of equipment and materials, sometimes in commercial vehicles that are oversize or overweight. Regardless of whether the vehicles are of legal size and weight or are carrying excessive weight or are oversize, they cause the rapid deterioration of state roads and bridges, create significant costs to the state of millions of dollars in lost road and bridge use and life.
(4) The use of these vehicles on narrow, rural roads which were not designed nor intended for such large vehicles also puts the safety of all drivers on those roads at risk. Accidents involving large commercial vehicles on these rural roads may render the roads impassable for emergency vehicles as well as local residents for extended periods of time. The lack of communication with local law-enforcement and responsible agencies regarding such accidents and traffic hazards is not only dangerous for the vehicle operators and local residents, it is illegal. The communication problem is exacerbated by the lack of cellular telephone service in many rural areas.
(5) Enforcement of truck safety and driver safety laws has been divided between various jurisdictions such as local and state law enforcement, the Division of Highways and the Public Service Commission. As a result, local and state enforcement of those comprehensive laws has not been uniform, with the result that many of these laws may not have not been enforced.
(6) The resulting need for a remedy for hauling equipment and materials to natural gas drilling sites is severe where the Marcellus Shale and other formations are being actively developed. As more natural gas is produced from these formations, every area of the state will be affected.
(7) Any remedy must include additional safety protections for the public sharing the roads with a large vehicle fleet and specialized training for operators of these vehicles, as well as requiring the program to be designed to assure that state weight and safety requirements are effectively administered and enforced.
(b) A special regulatory program with administrative enforcement authority over all vehicles hauling equipment and materials for natural gas drilling in West Virginia is created. This program is designed to address the economic needs of the state natural gas industry within the confines of the ability of the transportation infrastructure to accommodate these needs and in careful consideration for road safety and maintenance requirements of these vehicles by providing for enhanced enforcement and safety requirements on natural gas resource transportation roads and allowing limited weight and size increases, above the currently allowable weight and size limits on these rural roads for vehicles hauling equipment and materials for natural gas drilling where an increase is required and where the infrastructure can sustain, or be made to sustain, the increased traffic and loads.
For purposes of this article:
(a) “Commission” means the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.
(b) “Division” means the Division of Highways within the Department of Transportation.
(c) “Drilling activity” means the activity related to exploration and production of natural gas from a site for “well work” as defined in section one, article six, chapter twenty-two of this code.
(d) “Drilling site or well site” means the location of drilling activity.
(e) “Driver or Operator” means the person operating a commercial motor vehicle transporting natural gas drilling equipment or materials on any public highway of this state.
(f) “Natural gas resource transportation road” means a road designated by the Department of Transportation as safe and sufficient to allow vehicles hauling equipment and materials to natural gas drilling sites to carry a greater gross and axle weight of up to one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, with a five percent variance.
(g) “Natural gas well owner” means any person, firm, partnership, partnership association or corporation that owns, manages, operates, controls or possesses such well as principal, or as lessee or contractor; employee or agent of such principal.
(h)“Vehicle owner” means the person who as owner of a commercial motor vehicle employs, contracts or otherwise directs a driver to operate that vehicle on a public highway of this state for the purpose of transporting equipment or materials to a natural gas drilling site.
§17C-17C-3. Authority and duties of the Division of Highways; Department of Environmental Protection and Public Service Commission generally.
(a) The Division of Highways shall establish all legal vehicle weight and size limits for all public highways including roads within the natural gas resource transportation road system. The Division of Highways shall establish a temporary road designation of natural gas resource transportation road which shall apply only during the period of time that a natural gas drilling activity is underway. The designation shall be withdrawn when the drilling equipment is removed and the gas well is in production.
(b) Only state-maintained roads and public highways found in the areas certified by the Department of Environmental Protection as having active natural gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale or other such formations, where well work is ready to commence or is being conducted, shall may be included in the temporary natural gas resource transportation road system. The Department of Environmental Protection shall provide copies of the permit for well work and the application for the permit to the division and promptly advise the division when well work permits are issued, revoked or modified, if the modification would require a change to the list of natural gas resource transportation roads.
(c) The division shall post signs on natural gas resource transportation roads informing the public of the designation and shall also list a toll-free telephone line for public reporting of poor driving or law violations by special permit operators.
(d) The Public Service Commission shall administer the natural gas resource transportation road special permitting program and otherwise enforce the provisions of this article. The commission shall establish requirements for vehicle operators holding natural gas resource transportation road permits pursuant to section four of this article consistent with federal statutory and regulatory requirements.
(e) The commission may, during normal business hours, conduct inspections of all trucking-related records of vehicle operators and owners engaged in the transportation of equipment and materials on natural gas resource transportation roads. Copies of records shall be provided to commission employees upon request. This provision may not be construed to authorize the commission to reveal trade secrets or other confidential financial information of those persons inspected; however the commission may use any weight measurement records as evidence of a violation of this article.
(f) The commission shall establish and maintain a toll-free telephone line for public reporting of poor driving or law violations by special permit operators. In addition, the commission shall require all vehicles operating under a special permit issued pursuant to the provisions of this article to clearly display on the vehicle the toll-free telephone number.
(g) The commission shall implement a study of commercial vehicle safety-related issues, including using higher education institutions and other research organizations. The commission shall provide periodic reports to the commercial motor vehicle weight and safety enforcement advisory committee as established in section two, article one-a, chapter twenty-four-a of this code relating to the study of motor vehicle weight and safety enforcement.
(h) Notwithstanding the provisions of section three, article one, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, the commission and the division shall each propose emergency and legislative rules for promulgation in accordance with the provisions of article three of said chapter to carry out their duties and responsibilities pursuant to the provisions of this article.
§17C-17C-4. Special permits; training requirements; promulgation of rules.
(a) The commission may issue permits to authorize transportation of equipment and materials on natural gas resource transportation roads if the vehicle driver meets training and safety requirements established by the commission. This special permit is in addition to any other permit or license required by law.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of section three, article one, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, the commission shall promulgate emergency and legislative rules to effectuate the purposes of this section, which shall, at a minimum, provide for the following:
(1) Requirements for twenty-four hours of mandatory specialized training for commercial vehicles operators with less than two years of commercial driving experience and all commercial operators using the natural gas resource transportation roads who have less than one year of commercial driving experience on mountainous rural roads;
(2) Requirements for random drug and alcohol testing;
(3) Mandatory reporting of accidents;
(4) Requirements for daily records consistent with the provisions of any applicable federal statutory or regulatory requirements;
(5) Permit fees; and
(6) Any other requirements determined to be necessary or appropriate by the commission.
(c) Special permits authorized by this section shall be issued by the commission on forms prescribed and furnished by it. The special permit indicium shall be carried on the person of the vehicle driver. Lost, destroyed, stolen or otherwise unusable special permits shall be replaced in accordance with legislative rules to be promulgated by the commission.
(d) Special permits issued pursuant to the provisions of this section are valid for a period of one year from the date of purchase: Provided, That no renewal permits shall be issued to any permittee who, at the time of the renewal, has any administrative or criminal actions pending relating to the operation of commercial motor vehicles in this or other states.
§17C-17C-5. Natural gas well owner permits; promulgation of rules.
(a) A natural gas well owner may not have, authorize or allow equipment or materials to be transported over a natural gas resource transportation road without a natural gas well owner permit issued by the Commissioner of the Division of Highways. A natural gas well owner permit may be issued for a period not to exceed two years and may be renewed for an additional period not to exceed one year. All natural gas well owners currently conducting drilling activities shall apply for a natural gas well owner permit within thirty days of the enactment of this article by the Legislature in 2011. The natural gas well owner is responsible for the conduct of his or her contractors and subcontractors when they are using a natural gas resource transportation road.
(b) Natural gas well owner permits may include, but are not limited to, the following requirements:
(1) Pilot vehicles when required by the division;
(2) Creation and maintenance of vehicle pull off areas;
(3) Limitation on hours of operation of vehicles;
(4) Provide the division with an up-to-date list of contractors and subcontractors authorized by the natural gas well owner to transport equipment and materials on a natural gas resource road;
(5) Provide the division with an up-to-date list of the vehicles and equipment used by the contractors and subcontractors authorized by the natural gas well owner to transport equipment and materials on a natural gas resource road;
(6) Weight and length restrictions for commercial vehicles and loads as appropriate for the roads;
(7) Road improvements which may be required before, during and after completion of that portion of the well work that necessitates transportation of equipment and materials under this permit; and
(8) Performance bond in an amount sufficient to cover road repairs.
(c) If more than one natural gas well owner is operating in the same area, each owner is jointly and severely liable for the cost of road repair and maintenance.
(d) The division may suspend, revoke or modify a permit, after notice and opportunity to be heard, if the natural gas well owner violates the terms and conditions of the permit. If one or more violations, individually or in combination, endanger public safety the division may issue a cease and desist order requiring the immediate cessation of all well work and the transportation of equipment and materials until such time as the violation or violations are corrected and the public safety is no longer endangered.
(e) The division shall promptly notify the Department of Environmental Protection of natural gas well owner permit violations. The department shall suspend or revoke the well work permit when the natural gas well owner permit has been suspended or revoked or a cease and desist order has been entered by the division.
(f) The division shall propose emergency and legislative rules for promulgation in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code to establish a schedule of permit fees and to effectuate the provisions of this section.
§17C-17C-6. Accident reporting; penalties.
(a) Whenever any accident occurs on or about a road designated as part of the natural resources transportation road system, it is the duty of the operator to notify, within fifteen minutes, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management of the accident regardless of whether another vehicle is involved in the accident or whether any injuries occurred. It shall be posted in a conspicuous location in every vehicle whose operator has a permit for the natural gas resource transportation road system. If the accident occurs in an area where cellular telephone service is not available the operator shall, within five minutes, contact the drilling site or the trucking company’s headquarters via radio. The radio operator at the drilling site or the trucking company’s headquarters shall immediately notify the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management of the accident and its precise location.
(b) In addition to any other penalty or sanction provided by law, the Commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles shall suspend for a period of one year the driver’s license of a commercial vehicle driver if it is determined that the driver failed to give notice as required by this section. The Commissioner of Motor Vehicles may waive the suspension if he or she finds that failure to give notice of an accident was caused by circumstances wholly outside the control of the operator.
(c) In addition to any other penalty or sanction provided by law, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall impose a civil administrative penalty of $50,000 on a natural gas well owner if it is determined that the radio operator failed to give notice as required by this section. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection may waive imposition of the civil administrative penalty if he or she finds that failure to give notice of an accident was caused by circumstances wholly outside the control of the radio operator.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to create the natural gas resources transportation road system and to regulate the transportation of equipment and materials on those roads.
This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.