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New Attack on Fracking

November 5, 2013

Those opposed to fracking have used fear as a weapon: Fear of well water being contaminated by natural gas, with pictures of “flaming” water faucets; fear of chemicals contaminating groundwater supplies; fear of earthquakes, etc.

They have now opened a new front in their war against fracking.

The new campaign targets homeowners, attempting to scare them about how noise and truck traffic related to fracking might affect their families and neighborhoods; or about how they may have been swindled out of the mineral rights under their homes.

This new approach may be effective, because some fragmented and isolated facts may support the claims made by those opposed to fracking. Some people may erroneously conclude, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

The approach is well known to scam artists, who wrap a few facts around misinformation to make their story seem plausible.

One of the new “scare” narratives concerns the accepted and legal practice of separating mineral rights from land-surface rights.

Separating mineral and surface rights has been a well-recognized practice in western states with a long history of mining.  Even there, however, some people were not aware of the practice. People raised in cities, for example, may never have been exposed to mineral rights.

It’s no wonder that some new home buyers have been caught off guard, learning after they purchased their home that they didn’t own the mineral rights.

Reuters did an expose’ ferreting out such situations.

The Reuters’ headline read, “Special Report: U.S. builders hoard mineral rights under new homes.”

Reuters went beyond the inflammatory headline to exploit fear, by saying; homeowners, “worry about the potential health and environmental effects of fracking.”

Reuters made this statement knowing full well there are no proven health or environmental threats from fracking a few thousand feet below homes1.

Homeowners are perfectly capable of making choices about risk, when they are informed … and it’s questionable how many would associate fracking with risk.

Homeowners make a far riskier decision when they buy a home abutting the right of way for a natural gas pipeline.

Plat showing location of homes adjacent to major natural gas pipeline

Plat showing location of homes adjacent to major natural gas pipeline

This map shows million dollar homes abutting the right of way of a major natural gas pipeline. While living next to a natural gas pipeline involves an extremely small risk, there have been instances where pipelines have ruptured, killing people living near the pipeline. The 2010 San Bruno explosion is an example.

Any risk from fracking, thousands of feet below homes, is miniscule compared to living next to natural gas pipelines. Yet, people are willing to accept living next to natural gas pipelines in countless locations around the country.

Mineral rights are new to many people, and Reuters highlighted a situation in Florida, where mineral rights had been separated from the property. Few homebuyers, even if they knew about mineral rights, would have expected mineral rights to be an issue in Florida.

But the Reuters story made good press, and was followed by Mother Jones, a radical magazine that has been against fracking from the outset, capitalizing on fear.

None of this is to say that people should be kept in the dark about mineral rights or any other activity required by fracking.

When insurance companies deny coverage where fracking occurs, or when mortgage companies deny mortgages because mineral rights have been separated from the property, there is a problem that needs to be fixed.

It’s a disclosure problem, not a problem related to risk.

Unfortunately, fear has led some communities to try to ban fracking, which is the objective of anti-fracking groups.

Fear, unreasonable fear, shouldn’t be the basis for banning fracking, or nuclear power plants, or any other activity.

People should be made aware of mineral and surface rights so they can determine the status of mineral rights before they buy a home. Hopefully this article can help in that process.

It’s in the industry’s best interest to pursue actions that make people aware that mineral rights can be separated from surface rights.

If people are fully informed they can decide to buy or not buy, such as is the case when people choose to buy next to natural gas pipelines.

If enough people refuse to buy, home builders will be less likely to separate mineral rights from surface rights.

Market forces usually resolve issues when there is an informed public.

It’s also in all our interests to see that fracking continues, and that anti-fracking forces don’t scare people into making irrational decisions.

Fracking is creating jobs and making the United States more prosperous.


  1.  The article went so far as to mention homeowners being approached to buy insurance from hydrogen sulfide leaks. Hydrogen sulfide is a very dangerous gas, sometimes associated with oil, i.e., sour crude. Inserting this into the article raised fear … totally unjustified for fracking.


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. donb permalink
    November 5, 2013 10:54 pm

    There have been negative effects from extensive drilling and fracking in the Eagle Ford shale of South Texas. Among these are destruction of local roads by heavy truck traffic and inability of some locals to afford their homes after significant increases in prices charged for rental property, because of the large influx of drilling personnel. There have been numerous stories in south TX newspapers on these and other effects. The state obviously benefits from all the drilling, but not all the local people in those areas.
    Of course such issues are not limited to fracking and might occur with any major increase in a high-volume industrial activity.

  2. November 6, 2013 9:13 am

    There have been some negative effects in some areas, no doubt about that. Fortunately most of these are short lived. The danger with the news coverage is that the exception proves the rule, and plays into the hands of those who want to shut down fracking.


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