Many industrial construction projects require cultural surveys for locating cemeteries, battlefields, and other historic and prehistoric sites before beginning work. Cultural surveys are typically required as part of federal and state permitting and licensing processes. This is to protect such places from being inadvertently desecrated during highway construction, coal production, wind farm construction, and natural gas production and transmission. Despite this seemingly obvious concept, cultural surveys are not required for non-jurisdictional gathering lines used in the transportation of natural gas.
–>What is a Cultural Survey? A cultural survey is a search executed by a trained professional, i.e. an archaeologist, to make sure that construction plans avoid culturally significant resources like cemeteries, churches and other historically and culturally significant sites.
—>What Does this Bill Do?
- Requires that cultural surveys be performed prior to construction of non-federally regulated natural gas gathering lines, while setting requirements for such surveys
- Requires a buffer zone between the outer edge of a cemetery and the boundary of a gas operation.
- Expands injunctive relief for people who have lost, or may lose, traditional access routes to their families’ graves, and requires that such routes be maintained or replaced by “like and kind” access routes
- Relieves taxpayers of this burden by establishing a fee for reports sent to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
—> What is a Non-jurisdictional Gathering Line? A gathering line generally runs from the gas well to a processing plant or larger transmission line. Pipelines that perform a gathering function are exempt from FERC regulation under the Natural Gas Act of 1938. The WV Public Service Commission, in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, regulates approximately 555 miles of Class II, Class III, and Class IV gathering lines in West Virginia for safety. Class I gathering lines are most common in rural areas and are not regulated by WVPSC/PHMSA. Such lines are generally referred to as “non-jurisdictional gathering lines” as they are not regulated by any state or federal agency. Since they are not issued permits, licenses, or approval by a state or federal agency, such pipeline construction projects are not currently required to conduct cultural surveys prior to construction.
—> Why is this Bill Important? West Virginia’s history is as dynamic as its landscape, as is evident by the wealth of rural cemeteries, graves, and other historic sites. SHPO records the presence of cemeteries, but only when reported by the public. Many go unreported and remain absent from the state’s records and maps. Also, many rural cemeteries and graves have a variety of markers in addition to the typical modern headstone, necessitating the need for a trained professional to recognize their presence to assure proper identification. This bill not only extends protection to the remains of West Virginian descendants, but helps preserve our state’s rich heritage for future generations.
Show your support for HB 2893 by contacting your State Delegates. Contact information for Delegates is available at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/house/roster.cfm