Action Sought on Damaged Road

NEW MARTINSVILLE – Heavy trucks traveling to and from natural gas drilling sites on American Ridge Road are damaging the roadway, according to a resident and a West Virginia road engineer.

“Stone (Energy Corp.) has been a little bit tough to deal with in this respect,” said Lloyd Adams, maintenance engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways District 6. “It was a paved road. The gas drilling work has caused it to deteriorate into a gravel road.”

Louisiana-based Stone Energy has been operating in Wetzel County for two or three years, according to company Vice President Flo Ziegler. She emphasized the company has met all of its bond requirements to operate on Mountain State roads. The bond acts as a source of funding, similar to an insurance policy, to cover road damage.

“We are continuing to work on these road issues,” she said. “We are looking at ways to re-engineer or modify the existing road.”

However, according to a recently adopted rule under the state’s new “Oil and Gas Policy,” Stone is required to post an additional $1 million road bond to operate in West Virginia.

The bond would only be $250,000 if the company chose to operate just in District 6, which includes Wetzel, Tyler, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke and Hancock counties.

“Stone is not the only company to give us issues with this,” Adams said, though he declined to name other drillers.

American Ridge resident Jim Holler said Stone needs to address these matters sooner than later.

“It’s not just the dust and the potholes that concern the citizens living along this road as much as it is the lack of concern for the residents to fix the major safety issues exhibited by the gas company,” said Holler. “What will it take to push this company to fix the roads? Maybe, it’s time the state revokes their bond, shutting down their operations until these roads are repaired and at least brought back to the asphalt state they were before they began.”

Though he knows Holler is upset about the road’s condition, Adams asked him to be patient.

“They are not going to get away with anything. We are putting pressure on them,” he said.

Ziegler said Stone wants to operate in cooperation with the residents of Wetzel County, emphasizing the company strives to be “good stewards.”

Though he believes “Stone will come around,” Adams also cited efforts by Chesapeake Energy and Consol Energy to repair roads on which those companies operate.

“Chesapeake stepped up big time. They are spending millions to pave roads,” he said of the road resurfacing the company is performing in Ohio County and other areas.

Adams said Consol and its subsidiary CNX Gas Corp. are spending about $3 million each to repair roads on which the companies operate natural gas and coal extraction facilities, such as the Shoemaker and McElroy mines.

“We are going to make sure these companies leave the roads in as good, if not better, condition than they found them in when they got here,” he added.