Panel examines forcing landowners to allow gas drilling

Posted January 11, 2013

— A study group of the North Carolina panel developing regulations for natural gas drilling on Friday discussed the controversial practice of forcing landowners to have gas pumped from under their property.

"Forced pooling" joins leased and unleased tracts of land so there is sufficient acreage to form a drilling unit for natural gas extraction.

Proponents say it protects property owners by requiring gas companies to pay royalties to anyone who hasn't sold their mineral rights, but opponents argue that the practice violates individual property rights.

'Forced pooling' graphic 'Forced pooling' latest twist in gas drilling debate

"It's like the homeowners association from hell," said Therese Vick, a community organizer with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. "If you look at the issue and you look at people's well-being, their quality of life, there's just no way to make this law right."

Lee County landowner Ed Harris calls forced pooling a declaration of war on property rights.

"These people are trying to run roughshod over the people of North Carolina and not give us a fighting chance," Harris said of the state Mining and Energy Commission, which is drafting gas drilling regulations.

"My land belongs to me. It does not belong to Jim Womack, Ray Covington and (other members of) the Mining and Energy Commission. It belongs to me," he said.

The study group is trying to determine how many landowners would have to agree to drilling before one of their neighbors is forced into the pool and what a reasonable royalty for those people would be.

The group also learned about pooling laws in other states and the life cycle of a mineral rights lease. About 40 states allow some type of forced pooling, but details vary from state to state.

North Carolina has had a forced pooling law for decades, but it's never been enforced. Womack, the commission chairman, said it doesn't adequately address the horizontal drilling used in hydraulic fracturing.

The process, also known as "fracking," involves pumping a high-pressure mix of chemicals, water and sand into a well to break apart shale deposits and release the natural gas trapped in the rock.

"What we have to do now is to tighten up that law so that there are not as many gray areas and so that the facts are well known and the people are well informed," Womack said.

The Mining and Energy Commission is to report its findings, recommendations and proposals to the legislature by Oct. 1.

Gov. Pat McCrory has said he'd like to see drilling start in North Carolina as soon as possible once lawmakers approve regulations for it.


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  • cruzinlong Jan 15, 2013

    It sounds like where some people live they will have big idustrial operations going on very close to their homes, I don't know of anyone who would like that.

  • pinehorse Jan 15, 2013

    Fracking: Just another way to destroy our finite environment here on planet earth as we turn a blind eye toward the inevitable solution of solar energy. If solar is not the answer, we'll ask that again in 50 years when all the fossil fuel reserves are at critical levels.

  • SARCASTICLES Jan 14, 2013

    This is a prime example of how the Democrats will "take our freedoms away" whenever they get the majority in government.

    We need to all remember those freedom hatin' Democrats in the next election, and replace them with republicans....the "smaller government" party of FREEDOM.

  • goldenosprey Jan 14, 2013

    Pooling looks like something out of Mao's China or Stalin's USSR. Or what the US did to the Indians...

  • rushbot Jan 11, 2013

    NO! NO! NO! The republicans and their legislative majority are behind this! And Art Pope's hand picked governor will do nothing to protect the regular citizens of NC. Now we will pay the price!!!

  • peterpepper Jan 11, 2013

    Here's a HUGE PROBLEM that the MEC needs to tweak from old laws on the books here in NC. ( not that it'll get any better)
    Land CAN be taken by eminent domain by the gas companies for running pipelines all over it . Want that in and all over YOUR backyard , literally ?

    Forced pooling by gas companies is a huge injustice for several reasons , main one being a LOT of people IN the " chosen land" for this activity do NOT OWN THEIR MINERAL RIGHTS , only SURFACE RIGHTS.
    Landowners in that posistion get the shaft anyway you look at it for the owners of the mineral rights are the only ones that stand to profit: mineral rights trump surface rights, period. ( don't own your mineral rights? tough luck .)
    Another thing that is really bad is the gas companies can put up HUGE drill pads, etc. way too close to your homes unless something changes....how does 250 feet from your backdoor sound ?
    Bottom line, property owners who live on said prop. need to be protected !

  • Terkel Jan 11, 2013

    rocket, don't wait till it comes to that, because it will be too late.

  • ljwhitmire Jan 11, 2013

    If this power goes unchecked, then the corporations can do anything they want by waiving a few jobs and claiming it will impact the economy. You're either a property owner or not. If I own the property, then it's mine and the only thing that can override that fact is "public" good. However, public good has been co-opted to mean anything that corporations want. Sorry, but the taking of land or forced land use should be done sparingly and rarely, not as a daily course of business.

  • Terkel Jan 11, 2013

    rocket, it might be taken by eminent domain, which requires compensation. But it doesn't require market value compensation and which common man has the resources to take on the state govt in court? Even if you did, you could be dead and gone before it's settled.

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 11, 2013

    Like the way they change the headline to something more closely to the actual thing they're trying to fiquire out. This has nothing to do with Imminent domain, this flat out allowing Gas companies to take over you property. This ain't for the goverment, but for the gas companies using the goverment to force people off their land. So far there are several issues coming to light about this fracking business that some are just now waking up to. It really needs to be stopped before it's set in stone and their nothing the citizens can do about.