The Commissioners were asked by some attendees to place a moratorium on fracking until its effects are better defined.
The Commission’s legal counsel, Don Tennant, sympathized with the “pain” expressed, but pointed to the fact that the Commission’s legal authority is limited to issues addressed in the Floodplain Ordinance and did not extend to the areas of government authority for environmental law, land use, or roads. He suggested that these issues be taken-up with the US Department of Homeland Security (FEMA), the US Congress, the WV Governor’s Office, the WV Senate and House of Delegates, the WV Department of Transportation, among others who have the legal authority to act on the issues of concern.
Commissioner Robinson said that if we (the Commission) had the authority and were to pass a ban on drilling, he surmised that within a week the first lawsuit from a mineral owner would hit the court. He said he believes there are about as many mineral rights owners as surface (only) owners. When pressed about a “moratorium” (not a ban) citing they had been emplaced in New Mexico and New York, Mr. Tennant pointed out those States are currently being sued.
Commissioner Robinson reported that they are meeting with oil and gas representative about the roads. He explained the bond process by which drillers could lose their rights for future bonds if they do not comply with road repair/repaving requirements. Repair/repaving is taking place, but not as fast he would like.
On the agenda items:
In order to comply with terminology in the new Floodplain Ordinance, Dan Wellings was unanimously approved as the “Office of Emergency Services Director for Floodplain Development”.
The Commission unanimously approved lifting the moratorium on drilling that had been put in effect December 18, 2012, while the new Floodplain Ordinance was being worked on. The favorable vote was the result of passage of the new Floodplain Ordinance that, among other provisions, gave affected property owners adequate notification that was missing in the former Ordinance that Judge Sweeney said was unconstitutional.
It was announced that Jay-Bee had met requirements including filing written documents, survey, notified affected property owners, and paid applicable fees, and therefore, had applied for a floodplain permit on ~108 acres at McElroy Creek, tax map 11, parcel 16 (Chris Coffman, surface owner). The final permit decision will be made by Dan Wellings.
The Commission met with Mr. Tennant in Executive Session to review the Settlement Agreement for Litigation in the Jay-Bee vs. the County Commission in Circuit Court. When questioned why they were meeting in executive session, Mr. Tennant explained that information that might be of advantage to Jay-Bee could possibly be revealed by the tape recording of the meeting or by the members of the press or audience who were present.
The Commissioners were unanimous in their vote to approve the settlement agreement that would be heard on August 12 in Circuit Court. Under the agreement, the Doddridge County Commission will diligently implement the new Floodplain Ordinance in a timely fashion and appropriately apply the new Ordinance in the instance whereby the permitting process was interrupted for Jay-Bee by the moratorium. If Jay-Bee disagrees with the outcome of their new floodplain permit request, they might have the right to continue to pursue their suit in court.
In closing, Commissioner Shirley Williams said that Mr. Tennant has represented the county intelligently and competently.