May 16, 2012 – The Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office recently released the consumer protection section of the DENR shale gas study. We want to thank the Division for its work, and thank Representatives Gillespie and Stone for their sponsorship of NC Session Law 2011-276 which mandated the study.
RAFI consulted with the Attorney General’s office on this report, providing extensive recommendations and research, much of which appears in the final version. We support many of the reports’ findings and recommendations, but we do suggest modifications to some and substantial changes to a few. For details, please read our letter to the Division.
The Impacts on Landowners and Consumer Protection Issues report presents critical information for the people of this state. It clearly shows the complexity of this issue and the need for extreme care before moving forward with hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. The safety of our land and people should be a prerequisite for the exploitation of our natural resources, not the other way around.
The report makes many recommendations to improve landowner protections. It highlights the lack of protections for landowners and identifies areas that need further study. It acknowledges that these issues are complex, and that more study and stronger recommendations may be needed in the future. While remaining neutral on hydraulic fracturing, the report states:
[I]mplications for landowners and consumers should not be overlooked or underappreciated. These serious risks extend not only to the landowners who lease their land for fracking‐related development, but to neighbors, communities, and the State.
The report focuses on several central issues including financial risks from leasing, increased landowner taxes, and impacts to land values. It emphasizes the need for landowner education to make sure our citizens are aware of these issues. The report also analyzes a wide range of land impacts from drilling and highlights the lack of legal protections for landowners. In many sections of the report the Division states that laws need to be expanded and strengthened to ensure fair protections for North Carolina’s citizens.
One of the most important parts of the report is what is not included. The report does not say that any state with gas drilling adequately protects landowners. Several of theDivision’s recommendations reflect some of the strongest laws in other states – yet landowners in these states have still been treated unfairly and seen big impacts on their land, finances, and personal rights. Much of the report examines current regulations on gas drilling, but it does not assess whether these regulations effectively protect landowners.
The research in the report is an important starting point for the discussion of landowner protections. But if we are going to be a model state and get this right, we need to put in place even stronger protections. We also need to take a closer look at issues where the Division asked for more information and research.