North Carolina, you're next!
Back in August of last year, this happened:
North Carolina landowners would be forced to sell the natural gas under their homes and farms – whether they want to or not – under a fracking recommendation approved Wednesday that’s expected to be enacted by the state legislature this fall.
It's really not that bad, they are doing it for the benefit of everyone, you see…
“I find it abhorrent personally that a simple majority of landowners could dictate what I can do with my land,” said James Womack, chairman of the Mining and Energy Commission and a member of the Lee County Board of Commissioners.
But Womack voted for the practice, called forced or compulsory pooling, saying there are compelling reasons to justify it. Forced pooling protects local residents from inadvertently having their gas sucked out without compensation and keeps neighbors from profiting from resources under someone else’s land.
It also makes fracking possible by preventing fracking opponents from exercising a unilateral veto on their neighbors’ right to sell their natural gas.
You read that right, there is an attempt to force fracking on everyone in order to stop fracking opponents. it all so -- socialist, or something. And there are so many environmental benefits! Look here, from the same article:
Environmental upside touted
Study group member Ted Feitshans, a lawyer and agricultural extension specialist at N.C. State University, noted that forced pooling could have environmental upsides because it creates drilling units and divides the proceeds.
“Compulsory pooling reduces the number of wells and reduces the amount of infrastructure,” he said.
In January of this year, the N.C Mining and Energy Commission decided what safe drilling distances from homes etc., would be. 650 feet.
North Carolina’s safety distances are not the longest in the country. New York requires a safety buffer of 2,000 feet, Dallas requires 1,500 feet, and Pennsylvania and Colorado both adopted 1,000 feet for buildings or water sources. Some states grant waivers to their setbacks, and some don’t have setback rules at all.
The Dallas buffer, approved by the Dallas City Council in December, is being criticized – and celebrated – as a de facto ban on future fracking.
Howard said Friday’s decision to extend the setback from 500 feet to 650 feet puts North Carolina in the 90th percentile.
Critics here were not placated, saying proximity to drill derricks, tanker trucks and other heavy equipment would expose residents to potential chemical spills and noxious fumes.
I bring this up because of a curious and promising fracking judgement that happened in Texas.
After a two-week trial that ended Tuesday -- Earth Day, coincidentally -- a Dallas jury awarded the Parr family $2.9 million for personal injury and property damages in the family's lawsuit against Plano-based Aruba Petroleum Inc.
According to the lawsuit, Aruba Petroleum had 22 natural gas wells within a 2-mile radius of the Parrs' property, with three wells in close proximity to their Texas home. The closest was 791 feet away.
As a result of poor management and lack of emission controls, Aruba Petroleum created a "private nuisance" to the Parr family by producing harmful air pollution and exposing them to harmful emissions of volatile organic compounds, toxic air pollutants and diesel exhaust, the lawsuit said.
BobR mentioned that we may be at a tipping point back in 2012.
Now we are seeing the first of what I predict many health related lawsuits due to fracking. Something that BobR said almost two years ago, seems sadly and eerily ominous:
As long as there's money to be made in oil, there will be companies and individuals willing to trash our backyard. It's analogous to the Wall Street problem with derivatives, where they knowingly trashed the economy for personal gain. The only way to break free of our 20th century energy technologies is to use the power of government to push energy companies in the right direction. This will require pushing Republicans to embrace the approach, which is likely to be more difficult than pushing the energy companies themselves.
Push we must, though, because we are seriously running out of time.
Going back to North Carolina, it looks like he may have been correct.
“It was a speculative venture, and what we've learned is there's no way to do exploration in North Carolina right now,” Brown said. “We paid out money, and we didn't capitalize on it.”
Of the 6,910 acres contracted in 2010 for drilling rights, 3,650 have lapsed, leaving 3,260 acres under contract. More expirations are expected in the coming year.
In the original rush four years ago, scores of eager Lee County residents had signed leases, hoping for a monetary payoff if drillers struck natural gas under their properties. Now many of those property owners are in limbo – free to sign with other energy exploration companies or to opt out of the energy gamble.
Critics of fracking, warning of environmental damage in bucolic Lee County, hope to seize on the lull to dissuade neighbors from letting energy exploration companies drill on their land and suck out natural gas from shale rock formations below.
“Nobody in North Carolina should sign a lease now,” said Therese Vick, a community activist with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “It’s not safe. There are no protections right now.”
North Carolina Fracking advocates aren't giving up though… They met one last time on April 15
and now they are ready to take it to a public referendum.
But Commissioner Vikram Rao, a former chief technology officer for the Halliburton energy services conglomerate, said the commission is striking the right balance. He noted that all but one of the panel’s votes was unanimous, indicating unity on complex issues.
“It does mean there was a consensus,” said Rao, executive director of the Research Triangle Consortium. “When I was appointed, I never dreamed we’d get that kind of result.”
Opponents of fracking see the potential for chemical spills and other harmful byproducts of industrialization. Supporters envision economic development, job creation and a relatively clean energy source in the form of natural gas.
Meanwhile, In NYS, a local anti fracking activist has won the worlds largest environmental prize.
Slottje, a despised figure among gas industry officials, has helped enact fracking bans in 172 communities across New York in the last five years. Even if the state's five-year moratorium on hydraulic hydrofracking were to be lifted tomorrow, Slottje's work could cause a major issue for energy companies here. (snip)
And she says she'll put more of her legal work online so that communities can use her local control argument in their own legal battles.
Slottje waded into the fracking battle almost by accident. She and her husband David, with whom she does much of her work, were corporate lawyers when they moved from Boston to Ithaca. She attended a community meeting where activists described the risks of fracking and was so shocked by the images and by the proliferation of leases across New York that she turned it into a call to arms. She was soon traveling the state, to town halls and demonstrations, to volunteer her legal services.
Her opponents say she has turned community members against each other, and that she has encouraged outsiders to exercise influence on small towns across New York that need jobs and tax revenue.
Slottje said she's done the opposite, by giving communities more of a say than multi-billion dollar energy companies.
As much as I personally focus on DC, it is clear to me that more focus needs to be at the state levels. This is where, (as has been said many times before) the real damage is being done. It's also where the real success are being had.
And successes are what we want to see more of!