Chatham County
Forced fracking could be coming to Chatham County, N.C.
Donald Lee Pardue

Not willing to sell out to frackers? If you’re a property owner living above natural gas reserves in North Carolina, you might not have a choice.

A panel charged by the state’s legislature with developing hydraulic fracturing guidelines recommended Wednesday that property owners be forced to allow drilling beneath their property if enough of their neighbors want it. From the Associated Press:

A panel commissioned by state government said Wednesday that forced fracking should be allowed in North Carolina.

Forced or compulsory pooling allows the state to let energy companies drill into natural gas reserves under non-consenting property owner’s land. Property owners in the state receive a percentage of the profits from gas extracted from under their property.

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

The News & Observer reports that the recommendation is expected to be adopted by the state legislature this fall. More from the article:

The proposal by a state study group endorses a rarely used 1945 law that’s never been tried here on the kind of scale that would be required for shale gas exploration, or fracking. Thousands of property owners could potentially be affected in the state’s gas-rich midsection in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties. …

“We are talking about a for-profit industry taking away personal freedoms with the blessing of the government,” Therese Vick, a community activist with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, told the Compulsory Pooling Study Group.

Taking away those personal freedoms is already the norm in some states. In Ohio, there’s an unofficial guideline stating that if 90 percent of property owners in an area consent to the sale of a gas deposit, everybody else has to sell out to frackers too, according to the Compulsory Pooling Study Group’s draft report [PDF]. In Kentucky, the figure is 51 percent. In Virginia, it’s just 25 percent.