Unless a county or a town has a road use ordinance to hold frackers accountable for damaging roads, they can ruin roads – and get away with it. Leaving the local taxpayers holding the bag.
Taxpayers Pay as Fracking Trucks Overwhelm Rural Cow Paths
When natural-gas drillers arrived in Wetzel County, West Virginia, resident Bill Hughes, a retired electrician, saw the benefits of producing a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. Then oversize trucks hauling drilling supplies began tearing up local roads, creating hazardous conditions.
“The bastards are just in too much of a hurry,” Hughes said, recalling an incident when a dump truck tried to pass him on one of the county’s narrow, two-lane roads that have suffered from the pounding of the trucks.
A surge in hydraulic fracturing to get gas and oil trapped in rock means drillers need to haul hundreds of truckloads of sand, water and equipment for a single well. Drilling that added jobs and tax revenue for many states also has increased traffic on roads too flimsy to handle the 80,000-pound (36,300 kilogram) trucks that serve well sites.
The resulting road damage will cost tens of millions of dollars to fix and is catching officials from Pennsylvania to Texas off guard. Measures to ensure that roads are repaired don’t capture the full cost of damage, potentially leaving taxpayers with the bill, according to Lynne Irwin, director of Cornell University’s local roads program in Ithaca, New York.
“It’s the Wild West,” Irwin said in an interview. “Everybody is making up their own rules.”
Texas Pays $40 Million
The Texas Department of Transportation has formed a task force to study the impact of energy development on roads, according to department spokesman Mark Cross. Last month, the state’s Transportation Commission approved $40 million to repair roads near the Barnett Shale in North Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.
The Wyoming Legislature has commissioned a study of roads in the southeastern part of the state near the Niobrara Shale formation in anticipation of drilling for oil. One goal is to determine how much money must be allocated for road maintenance and how local governments should be compensated, according to Khaled Ksaibati, professor of civil engineering at the University of Wyoming where the study is being conducted.
The result will be a “baseline on the current condition of those local roads and how much traffic they can take before we get to failure,” Ksaibati said in an interview.
New York Costs
While New York state has yet to allow fracking for gas, it is weighing the potential impacts on roads. A draft study last year from the state’s Department of Transportation found that “hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges” would need to be reconstructed to handle gas industry trucks at a cost of $211 million to $378 million.
“The potential transportation impacts are ominous,” the study found.
In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where advances in technology have opened the Marcellus Shale to drillers, officials are catching up to road-use issues, Irwin said. Operators unfamiliar with local conditions such as when roads freeze and thaw are worsening conditions, according to Tim Ziegler, field operations specialist at the Larson Transportation Institute at Pennsylvania State University.
“Basically, it is a collision of 21st century industry and 19th century roads, or improved cow paths,” Ziegler said in an e-mail.
Drillers in Pennsylvania must agree to maintain low-volume or “pie-crust” roads, streets that may have only two inches of asphalt over dirt, before the state will allow heavy truck traffic, according to Scott Christie, deputy secretary for highway administration at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Producers are tapping into Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale, a formation stretching from New York to Tennessee that may hold enough gas to supply the U.S. for three years.
“When they first arrived I would say we were slightly behind,” Christie said in an interview. “In some cases the ruts were two-feet deep. In some cases the roads were almost impassable.”
Even newer roads are vulnerable. A portion of U.S. Highway 2 near Williston, North Dakota, completed in 2004, is already being reconstructed, Jamie Olson, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said in an e-mail. Traffic across the state has increased 10 percent in the past year, and 25 percent near the Bakken Shale formation, where oil is being produced.
“We are reconstructing a portion of this roadway because the accumulated traffic loading has already exceeded the 20-year projection,” Olson said.
Local officials in charge of rural roads don’t have the means to calculate how much damage the gas industry has done and will typically overcharge by requiring replacement roads, Irwin said. Officials who oversee highways and interstates have yet to begin assessing the impacts from the gas industry, which shares the road with other heavy haulers.………………………………………………………………………………………………….Some related info on road use damages and road use agreementssee 30 pp New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR) report, Protecting Our Local Roads http://www.nymir.org/pdf/NYMIR%20Marcellus%20Roads%20FINAL.pdf…………………………………………………………………………………………………http://www.stcplanning.org/usr/Program_Areas/Energy/Naturalgas_Resources/Strategies_for_the_effective_mitigation_of_heavey_trucking_on_local_roads_white_paper.pdf
Strategies for the Effective Mitigation of Heavy Trucking on Local Roads
Co-authors: David A. Herrick P.E. Frank L. Santelli P.E. Andrew J. Sciarabba P.E. Peter F. Messmer
January 30, 2011
The authors, civil engineers with T.G. Miller P.C., have reviewed the Tompkins County Draft Local Law a, of the year 2011 regarding the regulation of High-Frequency, High-Impact Truck Traffic and,
after careful consideration of the document, drafted this white paper to be presented to the Tompkins County Legislature during a public hearing on February 1, 2011.First, we believe the Draft Local Law
(Law) can be enhanced to circumvent substantive challenges associated with accomplishing the stated purpose, which is to insure the safety and welfare of the County residents by regulating the damaging
impacts to highway infrastructure from heavy users. Second, we believe the County could choose not to implement the Draft Local Law and instead utilize Road Use Agreements (RUA’s) to mitigate damages
by heavy users. In either case, this white paper encourages adoption of a technical Standard Analysis Method (SAM) to guide the structural analysis of roads needed for both approaches. Additionally, if the
Law approach is ultimately chosen, we suggest that the language of the law be reduced to a minimum and that a separate Road Use Regulation (RUR) document is utilized to guide the execution of the Law
by the administrative functions of County government within the Highway Department. A local law would then reference the SAM and the RUR.
The SAM is a technical document that includes the analysis procedures to determine the structural capacity of a road, including bridges and culverts, and the impact of heavy hauler traffic.
It also presents the analysis methods to determine damage liability and repair cost shares of heavy haulers, including pre-existing depreciation and seasonal effects.
The RUA (in the case of the RUA strategy) or the RUR (in the case of a local law strategy) is an Administrative Code (AC) that explains the legal, administrative, and business requirements of either
Roads & Infrastructure
Towns looking to exert jurisdiction over local roads in an attempt to mitigate potential impacts from high volumes of truck traffic have several options under Section 1660 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (NYS VTL). NYS VTL §1660 enables municipalities to designate truck routes and set weight restrictions.
Ulster County municipalities have a number of options for mitigating the impact from truck traffic on roads they maintain:
Local Weight Limit Laws
NYS VTL §1660 gives municipalities the ability to exclude “any vehicle with a gross weight of over four or more tons or any vehicle with a gross weight in excess of any designated weight on any wheel, axle, any number of axles, or per inch width of tire when in its opinion such highway would be materially injured by the operation of any such vehicle thereon.”
Road Preservation Laws
Municipalities can pass road preservation laws. These laws treat locally maintained roads differently from roads maintained by New York State and county governments. The examples provided on this website are of road preservation laws that establish permitting systems on locally maintained roads.
The two road preservation laws provided on this website can each be divided into their own categories: route-based permitting and fleet-based permitting. The example from the Town of Sharon, NY is of route-based permitting. Route-based permitting requires businesses to obtain a permit for each locally maintained road used. Examples from the Towns of Dansville, NY and Dickinson, NY are of fleet-based permitting. In fleet-based permitting, permits are issued to particular vehicles or groups of vehicles. A business may apply for a permit for a particular truck or a blanket permit for multiple trucks. More complex operations, such as those with various contractors and sub-contractors, may apply for a road use agreement along with a blanket permit. Both permitting systems require businesses periodically document and report road conditions to municipal governments.
Designated Truck Routes
NYS VTL §1660 gives municipalities the ability to establish truck routes. Ulster County municipalities can:
[e]xclude trucks, commercial vehicles, tractors, tractor-trailer combinations, tractor-semitrailer combinations, or tractor-trailer-semitrailer combinations in excess of any designated weight, designated length, designated height, or eight feet in width, from highways or set limits on hours of operation of such vehicles on particular town highways or segments of such highways. Such exclusion shall not be construed to prevent the delivery or pickup of merchandise or other property along the highways from which such vehicles or combinations are otherwise excluded.
Truck route designations can be found imbedded in road preservation laws or as sections in chapters for Vehicle and Traffic laws in municipal codes.
Many municipalities designate state and county maintained roads as truck routes, excluding truck traffic of a specified weight and heavier from local roads. The road preservation laws for the towns of Danville and Dickinson each designate “State and County owned/maintained roadways” for a truck route. The Town of Dickinson does not designate a truck route in its road preservation law, but in effect, creates one by requiring permits for trucks with 3 axles or more engaged in “high frequency truck traffic”. (The definition for high frequency truck differs among municipalities and can target trucks by the number of axles and/or weight.)
Sometimes municipalities include some local roads that they maintain in truck routes. In this case, municipalities should list which roads and which of their segments are part of a truck route in the municipal code. When truck routes include locally maintained roads, a map is also helpful.
Municipalities may want to consider creating an industrial classification for driveway permits. Compared to residential and many commercial driveway permits, the requirements for an industrial driveway permit would differ in several respects. At the very least, municipalities should look to increase the minimum distance between driveways on the same premises or adjacent lots. Driveway permits with an industrial classification would have larger required minimum site distances and driveway widths. After determining whether an industrial classification for driveway permits is necessary, a municipality can work with an engineer to determine the specific standards an applicant would have to meet in order to obtain one.=======================================================
The Marcellus Effect
At the beginning of August I took a field trip to Bradford County, PA through the towns of Ulster and Towanda. Lots of drilling activity going on there: tankers pumping water from the Susquehanna, construction crews preparing impoundments and well pads, and a few wells.
According to my local guide, Marcellus drilling has just started in the area. But already there has been a lot of road damage. We drove along one road (shown in photo) which, until the drilling had begun, was paved. There was not a lick of asphalt to be seen, however; it had been ground to dust. But there was a continuous train of dump trucks hauling dirt and gravel, and road machinery to grade and roll the surface so that the residents had a smooth dirt road to drive on.
A similar thing happened closer to home. Epsilon Energy drilled three wells in the neighboring town of Van Etten (Chemung county, NY). Prior to drilling, the company entered into an agreement with the town board that, 30 days after a well was completed, they would fix the roads. So in mid-to late-March they began moving the heavy equipment in, and preparing the drill pads and by the beginning of April the roads were in bad condition (you can read earlier post here)
By May the drilling was pretty much done and residents figured that the road repair would be happening soon. A road construction company did eventually put down a layer of crushed gravel, but the road was never completed. “They told our highway superintendent that they wanted to put off completing the road repair till they had drilled into Marcellus,” said Van Etten Town Supervisor George Keturi. Problem is, Epsilon won’t be drilling into Marcellus anytime soon – maybe as long as another year before they get those permits.
That’s not good enough for the people who live there and whose children ride the school bus back and forth on that road. So at the August 12 town board meeting one of the residents told the board to force the company to repair the road. As of yesterday Epsilon has agreed to do the repairs.
Meanwhile, Epsilon’s failure to take their promises to fix roads seriously has sent the wrong sort of message to the town board. While neighboring town boards are sending resolutions to the State Legislature urging them to refrain from voting on a drilling moratorium, Van Etten’s town board has not. Says supervisor Keturi, “Because of what happened, our town board will not be signing any resolutions supporting gas drilling.”
……………………………………………………………………………………………………….NYS Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) 6 NYCRR Part 570 Promulgation Support Study [53 pp]
David Vandor, Managing Director & Chief Technology Officer, Expansion Energy LLC Jeremy Dockter, Managing Director, Expansion Energy LLC
Joseph Tario, Project Manager, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
Contract No. 21361 09/20/2011This is a thorough study as I would expect from David Vandor, a former colleague (25+ years ago).There’s a lot on safety & maritime facilities that’d relate to Port Ambrose.The fixed facility job projections are very low. The total # of LNG facilities projected 5 years out from adoption of Part 570 is estimated as 10->25.Here’s is just a road related section:
- 1B4. Transportation of LNG in BulkThe transport of Non-Radioactive Hazardous Materials (NRHM) is regulated by Federal Regulations, CFR 49 Part 397, which can be accessed at the following web site: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/. The following is the definition of Hazardous Materials per section 397.65:”A substance or material, including a hazardous substance, which has been determined by the Secretary of Transportation to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, or property when transported in commerce, and which has been so designated. “The term NRHM is defined in 397.65 as follows:
“A non-radioactive hazardous material transported by motor vehicle in types and quantities which require placarding, pursuant to Table 1 or 2 of 49 CFR 172.504. “The term “Hazardous Materials” includes all of the following: (1) Hazardous Substances, (2) Hazardous Wastes, (3) Marine Pollutants, (4) Elevated Temperature Material, (5) Materials identified in 172.101, and (6) Materials meeting the definitions contained in Part 173. Class 1 covers explosives, Class 2 covers gases (including flammable, non-flammable and toxic), and Class 3 covers flammable liquids. LNG, like all other liquid fuels, fits Class 3, and is covered by the federal codes.
Section 397.3 allows for local jurisdictions to impose stricter rules, but requires that federal standards apply when the federal standards are stricter than local standards. The states establish, maintain and enforce specific NRHM routing designations, but which must comply with federal standards related to the following:
- Enhancement of public safety;
- Public participation in the establishment of such routing standards;
- Consultation with affected political subdivisions;
- “Through routing,” to ensure continuity of movement of goods;
- Agreements of other states, avoiding a burden on commerce;
- Timeliness of the establishment of standards; and
- Reasonableness of routes, terminals and other facilities.Also, the states must take responsibility for and consider the following:
- Local compliance, ensuring that all political subdivisions comply with the federal standards;
- Population densities exposed to a NRHM release;
- The characteristics of the highways designated for the routing of NRHM;
- The types and quantities of NRHM normally transported along such routes;
- Local emergency response capabilities;
- Comments from the consultation process mentioned above;
- Exposure and other risk factors, including homes, commercial buildings, hospitals, schools,“handicapped facilities,” prisons, stadiums, water sources, parks, wetlands and wildlife reserves;
- Terrain considerations;
- Continuity of routes;
- Effects on commerce;
- Delays in transportation;
- Climatic conditions, such as snow, wind, ice, fog, etc. that could affect safety; and
- Congestion and accident history.The federal NRHM regulations require the following reporting requirements by states:
- Public information regarding NRHM routing in the form of maps, lists, road signs and the like;and the
- Reporting and publishing of designated NRHM routes.XE is not aware of any state or any local jurisdiction that has specific LNG transport/routing requirements that separate the routing requirements for LNG from all other liquid fuels and/or from all other NRHMs.The bulk transport of LNG and its unloading at destination points is covered in Sections 12.3, 12.4, and 12.10 of NFPA 52 and 11.6, 14.6 and 14.7 of NFPA 59A. The federal standards are silent on this issue because it is outside of the area of interest of those codes. The Texas RRC rules cover that topic in Subchapter H. The NFPA codes that deal with the bulk transport of LNG will be listed below, with an outline of each section’s main topics. That will be followed by a discussion of LNG pipelines.