If New York opens the gates on natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, one thing is certain: Heavy truck traffic throughout the region will increase.

While the state is in charge of oversight and permitting for drilling operations, regulating that traffic is up to whoever maintains the roads. Counties and municipalities throughout the Southern Tier are moving to protect themselves by taking steps to ensure any damage to their roads is covered by the industry -- and not taxpayers.

Their techniques have differed, and how those road preservation efforts will fare is difficult to predict. Some have focused on a road-use agreement as a way to target their approach, while others are looking at passing a law establishing a permitting system for heavy or concentrated truck traffic, not only from the natural gas industry.

"In the Southern Tier, all of our clients are talking about this," said Beth Westfall, a municipal attorney for Coughlin & Gerhart LLP, a local firm that represents a few dozen towns and villages. "Everybody is trying to address it in some fashion because these town officials want to make sure they protect their roads. It's a huge issue for them."

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