One of the most contentious policies related to fracking would be repealed in a bill introduced Thursday that seeks to end a practice known as “forced pooling” or “compulsory pooling.”
The bill would not require property owners to consent to shale gas exploration under their land, as is currently required under North Carolina’s rarely-invoked 1945 oil-and-gas statute.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Bryan Holloway of Rockingham and Stokes counties. That part of the state is home to the Dan River Basin, a shale formation that could contain natural gas reserves but about which little is currently known.
Holloway, a Republican, introduced House Bill 586 about three weeks after the state’s fracking moratorium lifted. To date no one has filed an application for a drilling permit, and any drilling would likely take place in Lee County, the epicenter of the state’s known shale gas reserve.
Holloway could not be reached for comment Friday. His bill is not expected to advance far, as the issue of forced pooling is under review by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The agency is due to submit its recommendations on the policy by Oct. 1.
A group that studied compulsory pooling in 2013 recommended that the policy remain in effect, but with added protections for property owners. Pooling protects landowners from having their subterranean resource inadvertently removed without financial compensation, the study group said.
One of the safeguards the group recommended would require that at least 90 percent of acreage of a drilling area be voluntarily leased before other landowners are forcibly pooled.
Another safeguard would require an agreement with the surface owner before an energy developer can enter the property to explore or develop. Holloway’s bill includes a similar provision, stipulating that “no surface operations or disturbances to the surface of the land shall occur without the written consent of the surface owner.”