Property owners in northern Moore County would be forced to sell the natural gas under their land if the General Assembly approves a fracking recommendation handed down last week by the state Compulsory Pooling Study Group.

Compulsory pooling, or forced pooling, allows drillers to tap local natural gas, even if landowners don’t want drillers probing under their homes and farms. Critics compare it to a government’s right to seize private property for the public good.

“It’s a particularly bad infringement on landowners’ ability to decide what to do with their own resource,” said James Robinson, director of the Landowner Rights and Fracking Project at the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA in Pittsboro.

Fracking is important to this area because northern Moore County lies atop the Deep River Basin, where state geologists believe a 40-year supply of natural gas exists.

There is a contentious worldwide debate over whether fracking is safe, with little scientific evidence to fill an information gap that has made it difficult for lawmakers and the public to understand.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which wells are drilled into shale or rock formations that contain natural gas, and injecting water and chemicals under pressure to fracture the rock and extract the gas.

In North Carolina, there are few legal protections for a landowner in the event of compulsory pooling. The state does not have a regulatory structure governing a compulsory pooling process.

Robinson said compulsory pooling “is not necessary” for fracking to take place, noting that West Virginia and Pennsylvania do not allow the practice in the Marcellus Shale region, one of the most intensively fracked regions in the world.

Compulsory pooling gives states the right to force a non-consenting landowner into a mineral rights lease. In most states, it requires that a certain percentage of surrounding land already be leased.

The study group recommended that at least 90 percent of acreage of a drilling area be voluntarily leased before remaining property owners are forcibly pooled.

“We have serious concerns over that just as a matter of fairness,” Robinson said. “Hundreds of landowners could be forced to sell their gas whether they lease or not.”

For example, even if 90 percent of the land in a 320- or 640-acre “drilling unit” was required to be leased to implement forced pooling, Robinson said a minority of large landowners could force a majority of small landowners to allow extraction.

“Forced pooling could set up an undemocratic process,” he said.

The study group recommendation bypasses the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, which holds regular public hearings on protecting the public and safeguarding the environment, and goes to the legislature.

Robinson said he does not expect the issue to come before the General Assembly until the short session next May, unless Gov. Pat McCrory calls a special session this fall.

“I don’t think the short session in 2014 is too early to see some legislation on fracking,” Robinson said.

State Rep. Jamie Boles, a Republican who represents most of Moore County, declined Tuesday to comment on forced pooling because he had not read the study group’s recommendations.

(12) comments

William Blackley, MD

I"m surprised that the Moore County Representative hasn't even read the ruling since it will affect the entire county.

What is most worrisome to me is the apparent lack of concern for the health impact on citizens in any county in North Carolina where fracking would take place since there indications from other studies that there is something in fracking that there is a 25% increase in the prevalence of low birth weight, 17% increased prevalence of small for gestational age and reduced 5 minute Apgars in newborns within 1.5 mile radius of a fracking gas production site. This is equivalent to 7.1 square miles of land that would be consider high risk for these statistics. Would you want your daughter or wife to be pregnant within that 7.1 square miles? I mean . . . these are our children and grandchildren.

Other studies clearly indicate an increased risk of cancer less that a half mile from a fracking site.

The evidence is not in as to what is causing these effects but the effects are documented never the less.

Our state needs to step back and conduct a full and complete Health Impact Assessment before permitting a single fracking well. We should examine all these health studies pre and post fracking and understand . . . completely . . . the health risks rather than rushing in like our current legislature and Governor are doing.

A full Health Impact Assessment and more caution was recommended by a comprehensive North Carolina Health Summit in 2012 but apparently ignored.

It appears to me that our legislators are putting private profit ahead of the common good. This is not a NIMBY . . . not in my back yard . . . because I don't live in Moore or Lee Counties but I do live in North Carolina and what happens in Moore and Lee Counties affects the rest of our state.

Ask you legislators to examine the health data before committing your county to this risk. Pooling is bad but increased health risk is worse.

Sincerely, William Blackley, MD originally from Dunn, NC now living in Elkin, NC

Tony Grausso

For accuracy's sake, here is the exact language from the film:

Plainview: Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I'm so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that's a straw, you see? You watching?. And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake! [sucking sound] I drink it up!

Tony Grausso

Reminds me of a terrific and terrifying flick: "There Will Be Blood" which deals with the shenanigans of the fledging oil industry in Texas. The protagonist is Daniel Plainview, who explains the process to a duped local who thinks he still has oil to sell beneath his land. Plainview tell him: "Drainage! Drainage, Eli! Drained dry, you boy! If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!" And there you have it, Moore Countians. "I drink your milkshake!" Fools that you are for going along with this farce called "fracking."

Deborah Williams

In a feudal society, serfs don't own land, just the masters.

David craft

It use to be you only had to worry about losing your property for back taxes or imminent domain. Now, a gas company..Kind of kills the purpose of buying land in NC

Boot Scoot

The worst of this is going to be for the many people that do NOT own their mineral rights but only the surface rights .
It is going to affect hundreds, possibly thousands of land owners who LIVE on their property in a very bad way.
These poor folks will have to contend with HUGE loud brightly lit drilling operations right in their backyards .
Not to mention
pipelines up to 100 foot wide running across their property, roads being built through their property , heavy equipment and truck traffic going on within yards of their homes 24/7 365 days a year. Oh, lets not forget about water and air pollution to deal with, considering they will HAVE any water left to pollute once their wells run dry from fracking .
Let's not forget about the
transient gas drilling crews trampling all over their property day in/out , crews that are KNOWN to be the cause of increased crime during their tenures in these drilling areas.

These folks have NOTHING to Gain and everything to lose for they stand to gain nothing financially and on top of everything else their property values will plummet.

This in thanks not only to our GA but to to people who lease the mineral rights owned beneath these people, lessors such as Dan Butler out of S. Pines.
He's one of a few people that own thousands of acres of mineral rights in the fracking areas to be .

Peter Mulcahy

Since this current bunch of Republicans has taken control in NC (I call them the "current bunch" because I don't believe all Republicans would act this way.), I am reminded of Deep Throat's suggestion in the movie "All The President's Men" to "follow the money". Whether he actually said this or not during the Watergate investigations, his advice is apropos today. As for property and homeowners in Moore County, I'd suggest a phrase from the French Revolution: "To the Barricades"!

Ce Foote

This is wrong on for so many reasons. Insanity.

Sally Larson

NC legislatures are not protecting the citizens rights by insisting on gas companies be responsible for their mishaps. If you're well is infected by their poisons that they put into the ground you have no recourse, they won't take responsibility. I'm disgusted how McCrory and our legislature is story eyed in love with the gas companies even though the gas drilled here is being shipped overseas. There is NO BENEFIT to NC allowing fracking here.

K Williams

Seriously? This legislation sounds unconstitutional.

Hari Dizzle

essentially the NC house just made your property their property...hows that small govt working out for you?

David Stauffer

By Gads! They're acting just like democrats!

That small govt is working out just about as well as the big govt. Looks kinda like we the people are taking it in the shorts from both parties.

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