Much has already been commented on the founder of NC Oil and Gas being appointed to the MEC in the seat reserved for an environmental perspective, but I want to add my own perspective. Dr. Covington fills a seat that could have gone to one of a number of environmental experts we have in the state: take your pick of environmental scientists and researchers here in the Triangle. For someone who has a real estate license to be seated in that position triggers a lot of scrutiny, and rightfully so. His chairing the compulsory pooling group only adds to the suspicious appointment. And now, the Statement of Economic Interests of the MEC members have been published and Covington lists his role with NC Oil and Gas as one to educate and advise landowners in response to predatory landmen.
A look over the NC Oil and Gas website, where “local landowners [are] partnering with local landowners,” Covington’s statements are all fair. He has a point that should shale gas be developed, there should be a group of locals to represent the full range of their interests. But a landman is not a property owner’s friend, and their introduction on the website sure sounds like they’re landmen. Again, on their website they cite that a last line of protection for a property owner is in the mineral lease, something that RAFI and Humphrey stated at the Compulsory Pooling Study Group meeting on January 11th. The founders of NC Oil and Gas are not listed as registered landmen, so they’re not actually serving landowners in that role. Then what is that group doing?
Personally, I am concerned that as head of the study group he is wishing to bring in perspectives of the American Petroleum Institute to have industry perspective, but not include perspectives of mortgage lenders, real estate appraisers, and additional perspectives on takings law (though props to the NC Attorney General’s office Consumer Protection division for being part of this group). The industry perspective is predictable: pool leases together around the highest concentration of resources so drilling operation can get the most resources out for the least expense put in, and oh, yeah, this is of interest to property owners because the less drilling we do, the more it isolates the risk (on the surface). This study group really needs to examine a lot of issues in a short amount of time: I believe they are expected to have recommendations to the MEC in October (this deadline needs to be double-checked).
There is one more perspective that needs to be shared on this subject. After attending the two different study group meetings, I get a sense of weariness on the people’s part, and it’s not a weariness about water contamination. I sensed a strong feeling among people that they’ve been mislead, that the financial security natural gas development will bring was oversold, that the impacts on their property value was understated, and their rights as property owners are alarmingly compromised with this industry. That weariness needs to be voiced just loudly as those expressing concern about water contamination are expressing their concerns. A lot more to come on this.