WEST virginia Legislature
2016 regular session
Senate Bill 596
By Senator Carmichael and Walters
Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §37-16-1, relating to permitting natural gas companies to enter upon real property in certain instances for limited purposes; setting forth those instances and purposes; making legislative findings; establishing a procedure to enter upon the property; requiring the company to pay for damages; excluding certain activities; exempting the company and its agents from trespass penalties if certain conditions are met; and providing that certain other rights are not impaired.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §37-16-1, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 16. NATURAL GAS COMPANIES; SURVEYS AND OTHER STUDIES.
§37-16-1. Natural gas companies; findings; right of entry upon property; notice; studies; limitations.
(a) Legislative findings.-- The Legislature finds that it is in the public interest to grant natural gas companies regulated or to be regulated under the Natural Gas Act of 1938, 15 U.S.C. §717-717w, a right of entry to real property for survey and study purposes in order to compile information to satisfy regulatory requirements or select the most advantageous location or route for facilities to be regulated under that act.
(b) Right of Entry for survey activities. -- Provided that the requirements set forth in subsections (c) and (d) of this section have been met, any firm, corporation, company, or partnership organized for the bona fide purpose of operating as a natural gas company, as defined in 15 U.S.C. §717a, and its agents, employees, contractors, subcontractors, or consultants may enter upon any real property without permission of the owner(s) in order to make examinations, inspections, studies, tests, hand auger borings, hand excavations, appraisals, and surveys, collectively called the “Studies.” A natural gas company does not need to be in current possession of a certificate of public convenience and necessity under the Natural Gas Act at the time of notification or entry so long as it is organized for such purposes and intends to use the studies to: (1) Satisfy any regulatory requirements; (2) prepare any necessary applications for approval by any regulatory body or agency; (3) respond to any data requests or other inquiries from any regulatory or agency authority or public official; (4) aid in the selection of a location for proposed pipelines or other facilities, or the relocation or expansion of existing facilities; or (5) aid in the engineering and design of any proposed or existing facilities.
(c) Request for permission to perform studies. -- A natural gas company shall attempt to obtain permission to perform the studies by sending a Request for Permission to the owner, by certified mail, identifying the approximate date or dates for such studies. The Request for Permission shall be sent at least fifteen calendar days prior to the first proposed date of entry upon the property. The Request for Permission may be made to an owner of record in the clerk of the county commission where the property is located as of the date of mailing. If more than three tenants in common or other coowners of interests described in this subsection hold interests in the property that is the subject of the Request for Permission, the natural gas company may send the request to the person to whom the sheriff is required to mail the annual tax ticket pursuant to section eight, article one, chapter eleven-a of this code. Permission from any owner of record shall be sufficient to allow the studies to proceed. Permission may be written or verbal. In the event permission is revoked, the studies may be performed pursuant to section (d) of this section.
(d) Notice of intent to enter to perform studies.-- Concurrent with or subsequent to the Request for Permission, the natural gas company shall send a Notice of Intent to Enter the real property to perform the studies to an owner(s) of record as of the date the Request for Permission is made. If more than three tenants in common or other coowners of interests described in this subsection hold interests in the property that is the subject of the Notice of Intent to Enter, the natural gas company may send the request to the person to whom the sheriff is required to mail the annual tax ticket pursuant to section eight, article one, chapter eleven-a of this code. The Notice of Intent to Enter shall be sent by certified mail and set forth the approximate date that entry to perform the studies is anticipated, which shall not be sooner than fifteen calendar days after mailing. The Request for Permission and the Notice of Intent to Enter may be sent in the same mailing.
(e) The entry upon real property by the natural gas company or its agents, employees, contractors, subcontractors and consultants to perform studies is not a trespass and those persons and entities are not subject to the penalties set forth in article three-b, chapter sixty-one of this code if the entry is pursuant to a grant of permission obtained under subsection (c) of this section or a Notice of Intent to Enter has been made under section (d) of this section.
(f) Nothing in this section allows the natural gas company, in performing the studies, to park or use motor vehicles on any real property, or to use chainsaws or other power equipment, without the consent of the owner. The natural gas company shall reimburse the owner for any actual damages resulting from the studies.
(g) Requests for Permission and Notices of Intent to Enter, may be sent and any studies may be performed by the natural gas company or its agents, employees, contractors, subcontractors and consultants.
(h) Nothing in this section impairs or limits any right of a natural gas company obtained by: (1) The power of eminent domain; (2) any easement granted by the landowner or his or her predecessor in title; or (3) any right-of-way agreement, lease or other agreement by and between a natural gas company and a landowner or their predecessors in title or interest.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to permit natural gas companies to enter upon real property in certain instances for limited purposes. The bill sets forth those instances and purposes. The bill makes legislative findings. The bill establishes a procedure to enter upon the property. The bill requires the company to pay for damages. The bill excludes certain activities. The bill exempts the company and its agents from trespass penalties if certain conditions are met. The bill provides that certain other rights are not impaired.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from a heading or the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.