Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, oil and gas inspectors shall be selected, serve and be removed as in this article provided.
The director of the division of environmental protection shall divide the state so as to equalize, as far as practical, the work of each oil and gas inspector. The director may designate a supervising inspector and other inspectors as may be necessary, and may designate their places of abode, at points convenient to the accomplishment of their work.
The director of the division of environmental protection shall make each appointment from among the three qualified eligible candidates on the register having the highest grades. The director of the division of environmental protection or the director's designee may, for good cause, at least thirty days prior to making an appointment, strike any name from the register. Upon striking any name from the register, the director or the director's designee, as the case may be, shall immediately notify in writing each member of the oil and gas inspectors' examining board of such action, together with a detailed statement of the reasons therefor. Thereafter, the oil and gas inspectors' examining board, after hearing, if it finds that the action of striking such name was arbitrary or unreasonable, may order the name of any candidate so stricken from the register to be reinstated thereon. Such reinstatement shall be effective from the date of removal from the register.
Any candidate passed over for appointment for three years shall be automatically stricken from the register.
After having served for a probationary period of one year to the satisfaction of the director for the division of environmental protection, an oil and gas inspector or supervising inspector shall have permanent tenure until such inspector becomes seventy years of age, subject only to dismissal for cause in accordance with the provisions of section two of this article. No oil and gas inspector or supervising inspector while in office shall be directly or indirectly interested as owner, lessor, operator, stockholder, superintendent or engineer of any oil or gas drilling or producing venture or of any coal mine in this state. Before entering upon the discharge of such duties as an oil and gas inspector or supervising inspector, each inspector shall take the oath of office prescribed by section 5, article IV of the constitution of West Virginia, and shall execute a bond in the penalty of two thousand dollars, with security to be approved by the director of the division of environmental protection, conditioned upon the faithful discharge of the inspector's duties, a certificate of which oath and bond shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state.
The supervising inspector and oil and gas inspectors shall perform such duties as are imposed upon them by this chapter or chapter twenty-two of this code, and related duties assigned by the director of the division of environmental protection.
(b) In order to qualify for appointment as an oil and gas inspector or supervising inspector, an eligible applicant shall submit to a written and oral examination by the Oil and Gas Inspectors' Examining Board and shall furnish any evidence of good health, character and other facts establishing eligibility required by the board. If the board finds after investigation and examination that an applicant: (1) Is eligible for appointment; and (2) has passed all written and oral examinations, the board shall add the applicant's name and grade to the register of qualified eligible candidates and certify its action to the director of the Division of Environmental Protection. No candidate's name may remain on the register for more than three years without requalifying.
(c) Within the limits provided by law, the salary of each inspector and of the supervising inspector shall be fixed by the director and the Oil and Gas Inspectors' Examining Board may make recommendations for salary determinations. In fixing salaries of the oil and gas inspectors and of the supervising inspector, the director shall consider ability, performance of duty and experience. Inspectors and supervising inspectors are entitled to mileage expense reimbursement at the rate established for in-state travel of public employees, in the Governor's travel rules, as administered by the Department of Administration. No reimbursement for traveling expenses may be made except upon an itemized account of the expenses submitted by the inspector or supervising inspector, as the case may be, who shall verify, upon oath, that the expenses were actually incurred in the discharge of official duties.
(d)(1) For grievances concerning matters other than suspension or dismissal, inspectors may file written grievances in accordance with the procedures set forth in article two, chapter six-c of this code. For a level one grievance, the inspector shall file the grievance with the supervising inspector. For a level two grievance, the inspector shall file the grievance with the chief of the Office of Oil and Gas.
(2) An inspector or the supervising inspector, after having received a permanent appointment, shall be suspended or dismissed by the chief of the Office of Oil and Gas only for physical or mental impairment, incompetency, neglect of duty, drunkenness, malfeasance in office or other good cause.
(3) Not less than twenty reputable citizens engaged in oil and gas drilling and production operations in the state may petition the chief of the office of oil and gas for the dismissal of an inspector or the supervising inspector. If the petition is verified by at least one of the petitioners, based on actual knowledge of the affiant, and alleges facts which, if true, warrant the removal of the inspector or supervising inspector, the chief shall cause an investigation of the facts to be made. If, after investigation, the chief finds that there is substantial evidence which, if true, warrants dismissal of the inspector or supervising inspector, the chief shall bring the petition before the Oil and Gas Inspectors' Examining Board requesting dismissal of the inspector or supervising inspector.
(4) A level three grievance is a hearing before the board to consider the appeal of a level two grievance, the appeal of suspension or dismissal by the chief or a citizens' petition seeking dismissal of an inspector or supervising inspector. For any level three grievance, the chief may not preside over the hearing and may not vote. The remaining members of the board shall select a member of the board to serve as acting chair, who may not vote.
(5) An appeal of an inspector from a suspension or dismissal by the chief may be filed by the end of the tenth day following the suspension or dismissal notwithstanding the time limits and requirements set forth in article two, chapter six-c of this code.
(6) On receipt of an appeal of a level two grievance, an appeal of suspension or dismissal by the chief or a citizens' petition seeking dismissal of an inspector or the supervising inspector, the Oil and Gas Inspectors' Examining Board shall promptly notify the inspector or supervising inspector, as the case may be, to appear before it at a time and place designated in the notice, which time shall be not less than fifteen days nor more than thirty days thereafter notwithstanding the time limits and requirements set forth in article two, chapter six-c of this code. There shall be attached to the copy of the notice served upon the inspector or supervising inspector a copy of the appeal or petition filed with the board.
(7) At the time and place designated in the notice, the Oil and Gas Inspectors' Examining Board shall conduct a level three grievance proceeding in which the testimony shall be recorded to enable a transcript to be prepared for any further appeal. The board shall hear all evidence offered in support of the appeal or petition and on behalf of the inspector or supervising inspector. Each witness shall be sworn and a transcript shall be made of all evidence taken and proceedings had at any hearing. No continuance may be granted except for good cause shown.
(8) The acting chair of the board may administer oaths and subpoena witnesses.
(9) An inspector or supervising inspector who willfully refuses or fails to appear before the board, or having appeared, refuses to answer under oath any relevant question on the ground that the inspector's testimony or answer might incriminate the inspector, or refuses to accept a grant of immunity from prosecution on account of any relevant matter about which the inspector may be asked to testify at the hearing before the board, forfeits the inspector's position notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary in article two, chapter six-c of this code.
(10) If, after hearing, the Oil and Gas Inspectors' Examining Board finds that the inspector or supervising inspector should be suspended, dismissed or otherwise disciplined, it shall enter an order to that effect. An appeal of the decision of the board shall proceed as a level three proceeding under the provisions of article two, chapter six-c of this code.
(2) The chief of the office of oil and gas of the division of environmental protection and the chief of the office of water resources of the division of environmental protection or their designees shall be ex officio members.
(3) The appointed members of the board shall be appointed for overlapping terms of six years, except that the original appointments shall be for terms of two, four and six years, respectively. Any member whose term expires may be reappointed by the governor.
(4) The board shall pay each member the same compensation and expense reimbursement as is paid to members of the Legislature for their interim duties as recommended by the citizens legislative compensation commission and authorized by law for each day or portion thereof engaged in the discharge of official duties.
(5) The chief of the office of oil and gas or the chief's designee serving pursuant to subdivision two of this subsection shall serve as chair of the board: Provided, That for any level three grievance proceeding the chief or the chief's designee may not serve as a chair or vote. The board shall elect a secretary from its members.
(6) Members of the board, before performing any duty, shall take and subscribe to the oath required by section five, article IV of the constitution of West Virginia.
(7) The board shall meet at such times and places as shall be designated by the chair. It is the duty of the chair to call a meeting of the board on the written request of two members. Notice of each meeting shall be given in writing to each member by the secretary at least five days in advance of the meeting. A majority of members is a quorum for the transaction of business.
(b) In addition to other powers and duties expressly set forth elsewhere in this article, the board shall:
(1) Establish, and from time to time revise, forms of application for employment as an oil and gas inspector and supervising inspector, which shall include the applicant's social security number, and forms for written examinations to test the qualifications of candidates, with such distinctions, if any, in the forms for oil and gas inspector and supervising inspector as the board may from time to time deem necessary or advisable;
(2) Adopt and promulgate reasonable rules relating to the examination, qualification and certification of candidates for appointment, and relating to hearings for removal of inspectors or the supervising inspector, required to be held by this article. All of such rules shall be printed and a copy thereof furnished by the secretary of the board to any person upon request;
(3) Conduct, after public notice of the time and place thereof, examinations of candidates for appointment. By unanimous agreement of all members of the board, one or more members of the board or an employee of the division of environmental protection may be designated to give to a candidate the written portion of the examination;
(4) Prepare and certify to the director of the division of environmental protection a register of qualified eligible candidates for appointment as oil and gas inspectors or as supervising inspectors, with such differentiation, if any, between the certification of candidates for oil and gas inspectors and for supervising inspectors as the board may from time to time consider necessary or advisable. The register shall list all qualified eligible candidates in the order of their grades, the candidate with the highest grade appearing at the top of the list. After each meeting of the board held to examine such candidates and at least annually, the board shall prepare and submit to the director of the division of environmental protection a revised and corrected register of qualified eligible candidates for appointment, deleting from such revised register all persons: (a) Who are no longer residents of West Virginia; (b) who have allowed a calendar year to expire without, in writing, indicating their continued availability for such appointment; (c) who have been passed over for appointment for three years; (d) who have become ineligible for appointment since the board originally certified that such persons were qualified and eligible for appointment; or (e) who, in the judgment of at least three members of the board, should be removed from the register for good cause;
(5) Cause the secretary of the board to keep and preserve the written examination papers, manuscripts, grading sheets and other papers of all applicants for appointment for such period of time as may be established by the board. Specimens of the examinations given, together with the correct solution of each question, shall be preserved permanently by the secretary of the board;
(6) Issue a letter or written notice of qualification to each successful eligible candidate;
(7) Hear and determine proceedings for the suspension, dismissal or other discipline of inspectors or the supervising inspector in accordance with the provisions of this article;
(8) Make an annual report to the governor concerning the administration of oil and gas inspection personnel in the state service; making such recommendations as the board considers to be in the public interest; and
(9) Render such advice and assistance to the director of the division of environmental protection as the director shall from time to time determine necessary or desirable in the performance of such duties.
Acts, 2010 Reg. Sess., Ch. 32.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2016 Regular Session
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