§22C-8-7. Objections to proposed drilling; conferences; agreed locations and changes on plats; hearings; orders.

(a) At the time and place fixed by the chair for the meeting of the board and for consideration of the objections to proposed drilling filed by coal seam owners pursuant to section seventeen, article six, chapter twenty-two of this code, the well operator and the objecting coal seam owners present or represented shall hold a conference with the board to consider the objections. Such persons present or represented at the conference may agree upon either the drilling location as proposed by the well operator or an alternate location. Any change in the drilling location from the drilling location proposed by the well operator shall be indicated on the plat enclosed with the notice of objection filed with the chair by the director in accordance with the provisions of section seventeen, article six, chapter twenty-two of this code, and the distance and direction to the new drilling location from the proposed drilling location shall also be shown on such plat. If agreement is reached at the conference by the well operator and such objecting coal seam owners present or represented at the conference, the board shall issue a written order stating that an agreement has been reached, stating the nature of such agreement, and directing the director to grant the well operator a drilling permit for the location agreed upon. The original of such order shall be filed with the division within five days after the conference of the board at which the drilling location was agreed upon and copies thereof shall be mailed by registered or certified mail to the well operator and the objecting coal seam owners present or represented at such conference.

(b) If the well operator and the objecting coal seam owners present or represented at the conference with the board are unable to agree upon a drilling location, then, unless they otherwise agree, the board shall, without recess for more than one business day, hold a hearing to consider the application for a drilling permit. All of the pertinent provisions of article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code shall apply to and govern such hearing. Within twenty days after the close of a hearing, the board shall issue and file with the director a written order directing him or her, subject to other matters requiring approval of the director, to:

(1) Refuse a drilling permit;

(2) Issue a drilling permit for the proposed drilling location;

(3) Issue a drilling permit for an alternate drilling location different from that requested by the well operator; or

(4) Issue a drilling permit either for the proposed drilling location or for an alternate drilling location different from that requested by the well operator, but not allow the drilling of the well for a period of not more than one year from the date of issuance of such permit.

(c) The written order of the board shall contain findings of fact and conclusions based thereon concerning the following safety aspects, and no drilling permit shall be issued for any drilling location where the board finds from the evidence that such drilling location will be unsafe:

(1) Whether the drilling location is above or in close proximity to any mine opening or shaft, entry, travelway, airway, haulageway, drainageway or passageway, or to any proposed extension thereof, in any operated or abandoned or operating coal mine, or any coal mine already surveyed and platted but not yet being operated;

(2) Whether the proposed drilling can reasonably be done through an existing or planned pillar of coal, or in close proximity to an existing well or such pillar of coal, taking into consideration the surface topography;

(3) Whether the proposed well can be drilled safely, taking into consideration the dangers from creeps, squeezes or other disturbances due to the extraction of coal; and

(4) The extent to which the proposed drilling locationunreasonably interferes with the safe recovery of coal and gas.

The written order of the board shall also contain findings of fact and conclusions based thereon concerning the following:

(5) The extent to which the proposed drilling location will unreasonably interfere with present or future coal mining operations on the surface including, but not limited to, operations subject to the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-two of this code;

(6) The feasibility of moving the proposed drilling location to a mined-out area, below the coal outcrop, or to some other location;

(7) The feasibility of a drilling moratorium for not more than one year in order to permit the completion of imminent coal mining operations;

(8) The methods proposed for the recovery of coal and gas;

(9) The distance limitations established in section eight of this article;

(10) The practicality of locating the well on a uniform pattern with other wells;

(11) The surface topography and use; and

(12) Whether the order of the board will substantially affect the right of the gas operator to explore for and produce gas.

(d) Any member of the board may file a separate opinion. Copies of all orders and opinions shall be mailed by the board, by registered or certified mail, to the parties present or represented at the hearing.