LISBON - Oil and gas drilling companies using township and county roads will be required to sign a standard road maintenance agreement approved for use this week by Columbiana County commissioners.
The road-use maintenance agreement (RUMA) requires companies to upgrade and maintain the roads while being used and to resurface them when drilling is finished, all in accordance with county engineer road standards.
Commissioners approved use of the RUMA on the recommendation of Chief Deputy County Engineer Bob Durbin, who said the document is being used as the template for the RUMA being developed by the Ohio Department of Transportation for county engineers.
"We just got a copy of the statewide agreement and it's about identical" to the county's RUMA, he said.
Companies will be required to perform detailed road analysis to determine what improvements are needed to sustain the heavy equipment and additional truck traffic that will occur. The improvements have to be approved by the county engineer.
Durbin said Chesapeake Energy, which has leased thousands of acres in the county, retained an engineering firm to analyze the roads it intends to use. "Based on that information they determine how best to strengthen roads to get their equipment and vehicles in and out of the drilling sites," he said.
The drilling companies are required under the RUMA to pay for the road analysis, temporary road improvements and final resurfacing. "All of this is at their expense. There's no expense to us or the townships," Durbin said.
The county prosecutor's office is also recommending commissioners approve all RUMAs for county roads, and the engineer's office has already entered into four such agreements - all with Chesapeake Energy.
Commissioners proceeded to approve RUMAs for the following county roads: Gavers Road in Hanover Township; Fairfield School Road in Fairfield Township; and Bye and Sprucevale roads in Middleton Township.
Durbin said townships have been entering into their own road maintenance agreements with drilling companies but are free to use the RUMA. He estimated about 20 township roads are currently subject to maintenance agreements.
In many instances, RUMAs are being obtained by Chesapeake before the company has even applied for a permit. Durbin believes Chesapeake is doing this to get a head-start on constructing drilling pads in advance of seeking a drilling permit for sites.
"So I imagine you'll start seeing a lot of pads under construction" based on the number of RUMAs in place, he said.
Commissioners praised the engineer's office for coming up with a RUMA for all to use if they want, saying it not helps townships but the drilling companies, which would otherwise have to negotiate separate agreements with every township.
"I applaud your office for taking this on," said Commission President Mike Halleck.