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Would Fracking in NC Include Consumer Protections?

February 15, 2012

PITTSBORO, N.C. - The North Carolina State Assembly is set to consider legislation to allow the controversial mining process known as fracking, which is illegal in the state.

Fracking involves injecting a highly pressurized mixture of water and chemicals into underground shale to release natural gas. There are numerous concerns about its effects on the environment, particularly water quality.

While the Legislature debates the practice, Jordan Treakle, who coordinates the Rural Advancement Foundation International's Contract Agriculture Reform Program, says some landowners already are being approached - and taken advantage of - by mining companies.

"Our concern in North Carolina is that the contracts that companies are offering landowners are lacking some basic protection, and also not compensating landowners for their resources."

More than 70 land-use leases already are signed in the state, Treakle says, with companies paying as little as $25 an acre for the preliminary commitment. In other states where fracking is legal, landowners have been paid as much as $2,500 an acre, he adds.

The shale primarily is found in the central part of the state, with the highest concentrations in Lee, Chatham and Moore counties.

Becky Ceartas, director of the RAFI program, says North Carolina needs legislation to protect the rights of landowners and provide some guidelines for the leasing agreements.

"We do not have adequate protection for landowners here in North Carolina yet. We feel very strongly to not move forward with fracking until sufficient provisions are put into place."

In states where fracking already is taking place, conservation groups cite evidence of groundwater contamination. The process has also been reported to cause minor earthquakes.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC