State attorney: NC needs consumer protections on 'fracking'

Posted April 26, 2012
Updated April 27, 2012

— A lawyer in the Attorney General's Office said Thursday that North Carolina needs to adopt consumer protections before legalizing a controversial method of natural gas drilling.

Lawmakers are expected to consider legislation when they reconvene next month that would allow drilling permits to be issued as soon as 2014.

The debate over a drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has focused mainly on environmental risks, but Assistant Attorney General Lynne Weaver said consumers also could be taken advantage of in a potential land rush for drilling sites.

"At a minimum, we believe there needs to be more written disclosure to landowners about these particular risks," Weaver, who heads the state Consumer Protection Division, told lawmakers.

Brokers have been buying up the rights to any minerals on people's property, especially in Lee County, for a couple of years.

Scott Marlow, executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, a nonprofit working with Lee County residents, said the brokers often use high-pressure tactics.

"Someone knocks on the door and says, 'Sign this piece of paper, and I'll give you $500, and there was no sense of what was in those leases, what they were signing away (or) what the risks and benefits were," Marlow said.

Weaver said the contracts are full of unfamiliar terms, and landowners usually don't realize they're giving other rights aside from drilling to whomever buys the lease.

"They have a right to come onto that property, to explore, to build roads, to use water from that property," she said.

Marlow said selling mineral rights also can put people at odds with their bank since most mortgages don't allow borrowers to sell an interest in their property. Mineral rights graphic Landowners may not realize what selling mineral rights really means

"If you're using a piece of property as collateral, the value of that property is part of that collateral, and if you sell off part of that property, you can be in violation of your loan agreement," he said.

Some banks won't make loans on land if the mineral rights belong to a third party, he added.

Weaver urged lawmakers to regulate lease brokers, give landowners a period of time to back out of any leasing arrangement and offer legal protection for people who don't own mineral rights on their property.

Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, said he plans to push for such protections in the upcoming legislative session.

"We cannot do nothing, because this is going on, and somebody needs to step up and do something about it," said Gillespie, who has advocated a slower approach to fracking.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • shep5190 Apr 27, 2012

    Oh, and as far as technology being around for decades...that is also an untruth. They did not do this high pressure drilling back then...

  • shep5190 Apr 27, 2012

    These companies are going to go where ever they want...tract size doesn't matter....read up people!!! If they want a pipeline through your place, they will just condemn it and proclaim eminent domain....look up what they are doing to pa. mountain folks!! Look up the frack lines around there..You will see...if your neighbor ok's it and you don't...too bad for you...

  • shep5190 Apr 27, 2012

    I, too, am totally against this practice in this state. Those folks that are all for it need to have it done in their back yards and drink the water...bet they won't! Or, with fracking comes pipe lines...well, they have to put them somewhere right? Well, if you decide you do not want it through your property, they take it...eminent domain laws let them...people need to do their homework because once these gas companies and their dirty feet are in the door here in NC, we are doomed...other states are trying to fight them to no avail, how could we possibly fight them? NC can try and put all the policies they want in place, but could never, EVER, convince me that we are safe... Pa and other states are suffering horribly right now with this. People are not only losing their precious water, pets, livestock, air quality and wildlife, but getting sick. Children ARE SICK FROM THIS!!! Job creation is a crock as well. Do your homework NC!

  • Rebelyell55 Apr 27, 2012

    @Truth Hurt
    April 26, 2012 2:49 p..........Your post is dead on. People better start calling their Rep.

  • Rebelyell55 Apr 27, 2012

    We need the jobs - we NEED the energy...NOW!

    April 26, 2012 7:57 p.m.
    ......No we don't. The cost of this gas is so low, it'll be hard press to make a profit. The only jobs will got to those out side the state and a few truck drivers. The effect far outweight the benefits. Maybe in 20 years, our kids could benefit, but us now, nope, no way, no how.

  • Rebelyell55 Apr 27, 2012

    I don't think companies will pursue landowners in development but will instead seek larger tract owners. I think they need 5ish acres to set up a drill-machinery-chemicals-environmental items.

    Just another bad guy
    April 27, 2012 9:17 a.m....Maybe, but there a story a few weeks ago about those who bought homes, and then later found out that the developer kept the mineral rights.

  • Just another bad guy Apr 27, 2012

    What I want to know is if you have a housing development with say 50 houses in it and some of they sell the mineral rights and some don't, how they gonna extract anything from just the 25 lots? jcthai

    I don't think companies will pursue landowners in development but will instead seek larger tract owners. I think they need 5ish acres to set up a drill-machinery-chemicals-environmental items.

  • mep Apr 27, 2012

    This technology has been around for DECADES! With improvements in equipment and techniques it can be done safely. No doubt these folks selling away their rights should be well informed... but then again... if you sign something, you had better be darn sure what it is. DUH!

  • Alex25 Apr 26, 2012

    Fracking has been around for DECADES.

    We need the jobs - we NEED the energy...NOW!

  • geosol Apr 26, 2012

    You're right, bigal, this is a tempest in a teapot. There is a reason that no one has tried to develop this resource here, and it has NOTHING to do with rules and regulations and everything to do with money. THINK about it. We've known about the shale for decades now.