Underlying issue

August 19, 2012 

Even after all the talk about fracking, it’s not certain that commercial quantities of natural gas exist in North Carolina. So the current fuss over mineral rights and the D.R. Horton homebuilding company may flare up only to fade away. Still, we might as well get the issue settled.

To recap: Texas-based Horton, when it sold lots, retained the underground mineral rights – common practice in oil and gas states. Here, it’s unusual, but, at the time, no big deal. With the possibility of fracking, however, some homeowners are concerned.

So Horton is abandoning the practice, and will return the mineral rights to previous buyers who’ve asked. But what about those who haven’t? State officials want Horton to return the rights to them too.

There’s a case to be made on the other side – a contract is a contract, after all – but as a practical matter, attempting to drill under a subdivision where some owners have assigned their rights while others retain them would probably be more trouble than it’s worth. Horton might as well give it up.

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