Fracking Will Happen, with or without Landowners’ Consent
North Carolina residents are learning that their property rights are secondary when profits for the gas companies are at stake. A state-commissioned panel has decided that citizens may be forced to allow fracking to occur under their homes.
After geologists found that it is extremely likely that the Deep River Basin of North Carolina contains hundreds of billions of cubic feet of natural gas, the state established a panel to determine what path it should take. One of the questions it had to answer was a problem that arises across the country in similar drilling situations: what should the state do if people don’t want fracking to occur on their land?
The answer was firm: some North Carolinians are going to have to accept it whether they like it or not. Though the commission “recommends” getting approval from 90% of affected landowners, one report suggests that a simple majority will be all that’s required to start drilling. It’s some swift and shady action from a state that, if you’ll recall, only legalized fracking after an accidental vote.
“We’re talking about a for-profit industry taking away personal freedoms with the blessing of the government,” said Therese Vick, a community member who tried to sway the commission to make a different decision.
When asked whether he thought it was fair to force people from their property for the sake of fracking, the commission’s chair Jim Womack responded with an unequivocal “yes.” Notably, Womack was an outspoken advocate for fracking before being selected by the state to head the exploratory committee, so there’s not much surprise that this decision was the one he ultimately reached.
The commission argues that even those who are forced from their homes would benefit from the decision, as they stand to collect a percentage of the profits of all gas mined under their land.
While the money may look appealing to some, other communities have learned firsthand that the consequences of fracking don’t remain underground. Not only is the water supply often contaminated, but health and respiratory problems become commonplace among residents. They money earned from gas companies no longer seems as impressive when families’ property values and quality of life takes a complete dive.
Nonetheless, the state legislature is likely to approve the committee’s recommendations this fall. Additionally, Governor Pat McCrory supports the plan for fracking in his state, declaring that the process would add jobs to the state and help the United States to develop energy independence.
Unfortunately, compulsory sales to gas companies are not unique to North Carolina. Ohio has an “unofficial” policy that requires 90% of residents to sell their land to drillers before the other 10% are forced to “consent” as well. In other states, the number can be much lower. Kentucky requires a simple majority to permit fracking, while Virginia has a frighteningly undemocratic 25% approval rate before fracking may occur under the other 75%’s neighboring land.
Photo Credit: Greensefa