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Task Force Holds Regular Meeting

By Staff | Jan 31, 2018

Ray Renaud, from the Wetzel County Office of Emergency Management, began the Wetzel County Oil and Gas Task Force’s regular meeting on Friday, Jan. 19. Renaud said he, along with representatives from the force’s road safety committee, met with the state’s commissioner of highways to present two key issues. The first issue addressed was the committee’s discontent.

“We presented the fact that we are kind of frustrated that the committee has been enforced for seven years, and we really haven’t made a lot of progress,” Renaud said.

The second issue presented to the commissioner of highways is the fact that the committee feels there is major change in the area that really adds to the need for practices of pilot cars throughout the county.

“What we want to do is have uniform practices. Every company, and even within the companies, the escort/pilot practices vary, and the citizens are very confused,” Renaud remarked.

Renaud said the committee received a reply from the commissioner of highways regarding the committee’s presentation. Renaud said that, in the reply, the commissioner basically said there wasn’t anything that he could do to help the road safety committee.

“At this point, after seven years of handling this… I kind of kicked it up the stairs a little bit. I said either we should do something or dissolve the committee, and that’s where we are at right now,” Renaud said.

Rose Baker, a concerned resident of Silver Hill, addressed the task force with her concerns regarding hazardous road conditions, inconsistency among piloting companies, and alleged reckless driving from oil and gas traffic. Baker first questioned when Brock Ridge would be repaired to ease some of the traffic that runs out Doolin and 89.

“And the traffic is going to get really, really bad, because they are putting in new pads. They are going to put in a new compressor station. And if Brock Ridge was fixed, it would ease the traffic up for us, because they don’t use it anymore because they have torn it up, and it’s not useable. And with this freeze and thaw coming, all of the slips and one-lane areas are just going to get worse,” Baker said.

She also adrressed the bridge at West.

“Are they waiting until it falls in the creek, and we have no way to get out of Silver Hill before they fix it? It’s dropped another six inches in just the last month,” Baker remarked.

Baker also brought up 18-wheelers speeding, and the inconsistency of the pilot drivers.

“The tractor trailers fly. And the pilot drivers are as bad as the tractor trailers. They don’t stop the tractor trailers. We don’t know how many is coming. This morning I passed a pilot driver that had one dump truck with him. I went about a mile, and there came one with seven dump trucks behind him, in a turn. We have no idea how many are coming at one time,” Baker commented.

Baker said that her vehicle’s side mirror has been knocked off three times in the past year. She said she addressed the issues with county commissioners years ago.

“The issue that you are describing, relating to pilot trucks, is something that Ray and the safety committees have been working on for years, and we relate to your frustration. We have raised safety issues time and time again with the state on this issue and similar ones. And we haven’t gotten very far. I think one of our options with the committee was to try and work with the industry to see if they will try and adopt some kind of best practices for behavior and the use of the pilot,” said Commission President Lawrence Lemon.

Baker also questioned why the deputies don’t cite the oil and gas traffic.

“I mean, even when you talk about these trucks flying… They will be out there flying, because 40 miles-per-hour, as we know since we live here, is too fast for an 18 wheeler. Unfortunately, it doesn’t violate any state law, which is the only law we are allowed to enforce,” Wetzel County Sheriff Mike Koonts commented.

“The thing our committee has done.. Everything we have talked about here… we have multiple videos documenting these crimes, so we have the means of demonstrating how serious this problem is,” Renaud said.

He continued, “We desperately need to work with industry and arrive at the best practices to increase the safety of the citizens. Period.”

Fore reference, OEM Director Ed Sapp closed the discussion by reminding that the task force, along with county commission, have worked on these very problems for seven years.

“This has been a constant problem on Rt. 7, Rt. 20, Rt. 89…everywhere. What you are saying is not new to these people,” Sapp said.

Sapp said that the task force, along with the road safety committee, just sent pictures of these problems to state personnel in Charleston.

In other news, Nathanial Manchin, a representative of EQT, updated members on current and upcoming company operations. Operations include drilling a top set rig on the 464 pad on Northfork, scheduled for the end of January; a horizontal rig on Wiley Fork, which is the 177 pad scheduled for the third week of January; a horizontal rig on the 360 pad on Richwood Run Road ,which will be moving soon and a frac at the North Henderson Pad, which will run through the last week of March.

Sapp asked Brian Jones, transportation director of Wetzel County Schools, if there were any updates regarding an incident that was discussed during the last meeting.

A school bus was unlawfully passed on the left-hand side while it was stopped on the road with its lights flashing. The bus was passe by a Ford 350 with dual wheels and a generator or fuel tank on the back. Jones didn’t have any information regarding the dangerous incident.

The next meeting of the Oil and Gas Task Force is April 20 at 10 a.m. at the Mollahan Center.