Energy production has a long history of dividing communities. Oil and gas booms transform surrounding towns, flooding sleepy hamlets with drilling equipment, streams of trucks, and money. In many cases, people are willing to endure the ruckus for the financial compensation that comes with it, but building a consensus at the community level can be very tricky. As the New York Times reports, one energy firm is looking to use a 63 year old law to force holdouts to agree to drilling:
Houston-based Hilcorp seeks to use a 1961 Pennsylvania law to drill under the property of four holdout landowners in New Bedford, near the Ohio border an hour north of Pittsburgh. The concept, known as “forced pooling,” means that people who do not sign leases get bundled in with those who do, to make drilling more efficient and compensate all the landowners.
This is a tough one. On the one hand, we can sympathize with the majority of landowners in the affected area that are eager to cash in on fracking. On the other, forcing homeowners to sign on the dotted line is less than ideal, or, as one such party put it, “it’s un-American.”There will always be tricky cases like this, but on the whole, Americans have a much better shot at being fairly compensated for leasing out their land to drillers. The United States affords landowners mineral rights, something few others in countries abroad enjoy. In fact, these mineral rights are one of the reasons why America has so successfully tapped its shale reserves, and why the shale boom is proving to be so tricky to replicate abroad.