(a) Before a coal operator conducts underground mining operations within five hundred feet of any well, including the driving of an entry or passageway, or the removal of coal or other material, the coal operator shall file with the office of miners' health, safety and training and forward to the well operator by certified mail, return receipt requested, its mining maps and plans (which it is required to prepare, file and update to and with the regulatory authority) for the area within five hundred feet of the well, together with a notice, on a form furnished by the director, informing them that the mining maps and plans are being filed or mailed pursuant to the requirements of this section.
Once these mining maps and plans are filed with the office, the coal operator may proceed with its underground mining operations in the manner and as projected on such plans or maps, but shall not remove, without the consent of the director, any coal or other material or cut any passageway nearer than two hundred feet of any completed well or well that is being drilled. The coal operator shall, at least every six months while mining within the five hundred foot area, update its mining maps and plans and file the same with the director and the well operator.
(b) Application may be made at any time to the director by a coal operator for leave to conduct underground mining operations within two hundred feet of any well or to mine through any well, by petition, duly verified, showing the location of the well, the workings adjacent to the well and the mining operations contemplated within two hundred feet of the well or through such well, and praying the approval of the same by the director and naming the well operator as a respondent. The coal operator shall file such petition with the director and mail a true copy to the well operator by certified mail, return receipt requested.
The petition shall notify the well operator that it may answer the petition within five days after receipt, and that in default of an answer the director may approve the proposed operations as requested if it be shown by the petitioner or otherwise to the satisfaction of the director that such operations are in accordance with the law and with the provisions of this article. If the well operator files an answer which requests a hearing, one shall be held within ten days of such answer and the director shall fix a time and date and give both the coal operator and well operator five days' written notice of the same by certified mail, return receipt requested. At the hearing, the well operator and coal operator, as well as the director, shall be permitted to offer any competent and relevant evidence. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the director shall grant the request of the coal operator or refuse to grant the same, or make such other decision with respect to such proposed underground operation as in its judgment is just and reasonable under all circumstances and in accordance with law and the provisions of this article: Provided, That a grant by the director of a request to mine through a well shall require an acceptable test to be conducted by the coal operator establishing that such mining through can be done safely.
If a hearing is not requested by the well operator or if the well operator gives, in writing, its consent to the coal operator to mine within closer than two hundred feet of the specified well, the director shall grant the request of the coal operator within five days after the petition's original five day answer period if the director determines that such operations are just, reasonable and in accordance with law and the provisions of this article.
The director shall docket and keep a record of all such proceedings. From any such final decision or order of the director, either the well operator or coal operator, or both, may, within ten days, appeal to the circuit court of the county in which the well subject to said petition is located. The procedure in the circuit court shall be substantially as provided in section four, article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, with the director being named as a respondent. From any final order or decree of the circuit court, an appeal may be taken to the supreme court ofappeals as heretofore provided.
A copy of the document or documents evidencing the action of the director with respect to such petition shall promptly be filed with the chief of the office of oil and gas of the division of environmental protection.
(c) Before a coal operator conducts surface or strip mining operations as defined in this chapter, within two hundred feet of any well, including the removal of coal and other material, the operator shall file with the director and furnish to the well operator by certified mail, return receipt requested, its mining maps and plans (which it is required to prepare, file and update to and with the regulatory authority) for the area within two hundred feet of the well, together with a notice, on a form furnished by the director, informing them that the mining maps and plans are being filed or mailed pursuant to the requirements of this section, and representing that the planned operations will not unreasonably interfere with access to or operation of the well and will not damage the well. In addition, the coal operator shall furnish the well operator with evidence that it has in force public liability insurance, with at least the minimum coverage required by article three, chapter twenty-two of this code, and the rules promulgated thereto and thereunder.
Once these mining maps and plans are filed with the director, the coal operator may proceed with its surface or strip mining operations in the manner and as projected on such plans or maps, so long as such surface mining operations do not unreasonably interfere with access to, or operation of, the well or do not damage the well.
(d) The filing of petitions and notices with the director as herein provided may be complied with by mailing such petition or notice to the director by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2014 1st Special Session
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