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Thursday, August 29, 2013

This Land is Their Land

Chart showing what forced pooling will do to Lee County landowners- Rural Advancement Fund International(RAFI) 


While I don't generally post my own comments on things here sticking instead to my extended family's, I wanted to share with you what I said at the close of the Compulsory Pooling Study Group's last meeting. As many of you know, the Study Group, which is conducted by Dr. Ray Covington, decided to recommend keeping North Carolina's forced pooling statutes on the books with some suggested additions. Here's a link to the News and Observer article:

Officials OK rule to force fracking on NC landowners

 The members of the Mining and Energy Commission who are eligible to vote on study group recommendations are Ray Covington, Jim Womack, Charles Holbrook, and Charlotte Mitchell. Mitchell cast the lone "no" vote. This study group deliberated carefully but there was never any question of them deciding we should not keep the law, some "talked purty" but having been there for most meetings I can say that in reality, it just wasn't on the table.

This is a pretty good description of forced pooling:

“[To be] Forced Pooled is the act of being forced by state law into participation in an oil and/or gas producing unit. Pooling is a technique used by oil and gas development companies to organize an oil or gas field.
When two or more separately owned tracts are embraced within a drilling unit, or when there are separately owned interests in all or a part of the drilling unit, then persons owning such interests may pool their interests for the development and operation of the drilling unit. It is sometimes the case that not all interests within a drilling unit are in agreement about development. In that case, a party interested in development can make an application to the concerned state authority for forced or involuntary pooling."

Among the recommendations are:

  • No surface disturbance allowed for any unleased owner compelled into a pool
  • A 200% risk penalty for those that are forced into a pool (I will explain that later-its not so great, you are being punished because you did not want to participate)
  • Parcels from 1-10 acres will have no risk penalty

Many spoke out eloquently and passionately during the time allotted for public comment, in addition to Study Group resource members Grady McCallie of the North Carolina Conservation Network and James Robinson of RAFI. When the audios are up I will share them in another blog post.

.I had written my remarks the night before,  but rewrote them twice during the course of the meeting. This is what I said:

" I recognize the hard work and soul searching that this Study Group has gone through to try and make forced pooling "fair." I thought a lot on what I would say today, most of last night in fact. I could speak on percentages, or other numbers, but no matter where they land on the scale it simply makes a worse policy bad, especially for those who do not want their property rights violated. 

You have spoken of fairness, but the unprecedented power and influence of this industry precludes fairness. Forced pooling cannot be made right and will never be fair. Let us be clear, we are not merely talking about convenience, or economics, or wastefulness, we are talking about justice, and allowing a for-profit industry to take away personal freedoms with the blessing and assistance of the government.

Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech reminding the country that the "American Dream" was not yet available or accessible to all. He was speaking of those disenfranchised in America. He stated, "I have a dream that one day this Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed; "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men [and women] are created equal." Personal freedoms and equality are seldom on the radar when the gas companies come to town."

Sunday, August 4, 2013


'Nuff said, y'all.

And friends,somewhere in North Carolina, enshrined in some little folder...named "Haliburton [sic]" (With apologies to Arlo Guthrie)


Please join me in welcoming two new members to the family, D. Bowen Heath, and Benne Hutson! They are both of the McGuireWoods law firm. Its past time that I introduced them-they've already been visiting members of my extended family, I am forgetting my manners 

Here's a link to their website:

  • Benne Hutson was recently appointed as chairman of the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission by Governor Pat McCrory.

  • D. Bowen Heath was a registered lobbyist for Halliburton in 2012, as well as the Koch Companies and others in 2011 and 2012. See the Institute for Southern Studies' list here:
The Corporate Lobby

On with the story....

On June 27 2013, I sent a substantial public records request to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) asking for documents from DENR Secretary John Skvarla, Assistant Secretary Mitch Gillespie, Mining and Energy Commissioner (formerly vice-chair) George Howard and others around the chemical disclosure controversy. It took almost a month to get it, and then a couple of weeks for me to sort through the four discs, one of which contained this little file:

In case you forgot-

Here are links to the N&O stories about the controversy:

"Halliburton’s local lawyer, D. Bowen Heath of the McGuireWoods firm in Raleigh, referred questions to the Texas corporation’s media department. Halliburton spokeswoman Susie McMichael said by email that key people were in meetings or traveling."

"Therese Vick, an organizer with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, chastised the commission for the sinister appearance of its dealings with Halliburton.
“The fact remains that these rules on chemical disclosure were debated, talked about and publicly commented on over months, and where was the industry then?” Vick said Friday. “Why did they not come to this podium and speak for three minutes or less?”
From MEC Commissioner George Howard's calendar

Well, I don't know where they were that week, but I know where Bo was on December 5, 2012. He was having a beer with George! I wonder if it had fracking fluid in it?

More to come...