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Opinion Letters Fracking means the end of property rights

Just a couple thoughts about fracking. When I read that the Department of Energy and Natural Resources Mining and Energy Commission (DENR-MEC) wants to look at fracking potential west of Buncombe County, my jaw dropped. My home water supply is spring fed and all my neighbors are either using spring water or wells. I see no good reason to trade perfectly good (and free) spring water for a city water bill based on some pie in the sky fracking company’s promise of free money sitting under ground. Whenever I hear "Free Money" I assume someone is trying to con me.

Worse than that is the Forced Pooling allowed under the new law (G.S.§ 113-393. Development of lands as drilling unit by agreement or order of Commission. ) If DENRMEC chair James Womack lumps me into a Drilling Unit, then my property rights go out the window putting control of my property and drinking water up to a vote by land owners in my Unit. Some land owners around me are my neighbors but some are out of state and out of country investors who'll only look at the potential income from drilling and may miss the loss in property value that comes with a poisoned well. Forced Pooling lets this unelected bureaucrat sell me down the river anyway, and for what? Maybe a few bucks and legacy of poisoned well water.

So suppose I don't lease and I manage to stay out of a Forced Pooling Drilling Unit. Now my property rights are safe from DENR-MEC trespass right? Hardly. NC GS § 113-420 gives gas speculators authority to trespass without my permission, to go looking for gas and make undefined "alterations" to the property surface, all with little more than a note in the mail and a company badge. NC GS § 40A-3 gives energy companies authority to take my land by eminent domain if they want to build roads or pipes moving their gas across my front lawn.

Some people have convinced their towns and counties to put up legal hurdles between themselves and Womack's DENR robber barons, and it might be a good idea to do the same here before the hills are crawling with gas speculators looking to rip off land owners.

Garrett Lagan — Alarka, N.C.





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published: 10/18/2013
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