One of the rights we enjoy as United States citizens, one which many consider nearly sacred, is the simple right to own private property and to determine how to use that property.
As with all rights, as the nation has evolved, limitations on those private property rights have changed over the years. Zoning regulations determine, at least in part, how we can use property. Tax codes adopted over the years tell us if we don’t pay those taxes, the government can forcibly take our property.
And the concept of eminent domain has come into being, allowing a local, state, or federal government to take property for the so-called greater public good, and pay the property owners what is considered a just and equitable price for the property seized.
In North Carolina, however, a committee appointed by the General Assembly is now recommending the legislature approve new regulations that will allow the government to seize certain mineral rights from private property owners so that large companies engaged in the fracking industry can profit.
Fracking, or more correctly, hydraulic fracturing, is a process whereby a wellbore is dug into the ground, then a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand is injected into the wellbore at extremely high pressure. This causes fractures to develop in the surrounding ground, with minerals such as gas and oil then migrating from surrounding soil and rock into the wellbore for extraction by oil and gas companies.
There are serious concerns over the practice of fracking, given that in some parts of the country groundwater has been contaminated, health issues have arisen for individuals living near such operations, and whole neighborhoods have even been condemned after nearby fracking operations have made them unsafe for human habitation.
Now, in North Carolina, this committee has proposed a new rule that would force home owners and farmers to sell the natural gas under their land, even if they are opposed to fracking operations or to selling the rights to the gas.
The proposal is known as forced pooling, and it is, on the surface, a measure “designed to protect local residents from inadvertently having gas under their property siphoned away without receiving compensation and prevents neighbors from profiting for what’s under someone else’s land,” according to an Associated Press report.
However, we believe the true aim of this proposal is to allow a fracking company to come in and secure the rights to underground natural gas from a certain number of land owners in an area, then force others into the agreement, whether a landowner wants to participate or not.
This is clearly a move aimed at taking from individuals and allowing large companies to increase their profits. We suspect that will also mean nice fat contribution checks for the legislators who vote to approve this measure.
We hope our local representatives will oppose this measure at every opportunity. And if they don’t, they should, quite simply, be voted out of office.