There are many pros and cons with the gas drilling industry here in Jefferson County.
One of the biggest cons is the impact such operations will have on county and township roads.
State roads were built to handle a daily pounding of heavy trucks. But county, and especially, township roads were constructed more for local traffic needs and an occasional truck.
Officials immediately began to worry when the gas drilling industry started making entry into Jefferson County. County and township leaders got together and drafted a road-use agreement that gas drilling companies had to sign. It was simple. Upgrade the section of road that will be used for hauling heavy equipment to and from a drilling site.
Chesapeake Energy has invested more than $4 million in upgrading county roads at drilling sites.
But county and township officials were still worried about the road- use agreement because it had no "teeth."
A proposed state law working its way through the Legislature will put teeth into road-use agreements.
A gas drilling company prior to applying for a gas well permit with the state first must enter a road use agreement with local officials. If no road- use agreement is signed, the gas drilling company must provide an affidavit stating reasonable attempts were made to reach such an agreement.
As it stands now, a well permit could be obtained and heavy equipment could begin rolling on township and county roads to construct the well pad. It is that heavy truck traffic that could seriously damage small roads throughout the county.
The proposed law states construction on a well pad can't begin until the road-use agreement is in place.
The county and township road system has taken decades to construct. The high cost of asphalt makes maintenance more difficult. County residents shouldn't have to drive on a road that has been damaged by heavy trucks going to and from a well site.
The section of the proposed state law pertaining to gas drilling will help protect the investment taxpayers have made over the years in building and maintaining a local road system.