Today, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed SB820. It legalizes fracking in the State of North Carolina and could allow drilling by 2014.
The bill includes many of the protections for North Carolina landowners that the Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA recommended in its report to the state Attorney General’s office. Because of the support of concerned North Carolinians, this bill is much stronger than it might have been.
However, SB820 will allow private companies to undermine some of the fundamental property rights of North Carolina’s landowners. We have three key concerns about the bill:
It does not prohibit companies from drilling for gas without permission from the mineral rights owner, as long as a certain percentage of the owner’s neighbors have signed gas leases – a practice called forced pooling.
It makes surface use agreements optional, meaning that landowners who don’t own mineral rights may have no say in how their land is used.
It does not allow time for adequate study of potential impacts, such has whether current state eminent domain laws would allow companies to seize private property to build pipelines to transport the gas they extract.
The bill does require the state to study the issue of forced pooling and to write regulations governing fracking. If the bill becomes law, we hope that the state will remain committed to a strong and thorough rule-making process that will address some of these concerns at the regulatory level. However, rights this important should be addressed before fracking is legalized, not after.
With your help, we will to continue to defend landowners’ rights in North Carolina. Please stay tuned to this blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for updates on what comes next.