With more emphasis on energy in the nation, landowners in some parts of North Carolina need to be aware that natural gas could be under their ground. A lawyer at N.C. State University also wants them to be educated about natural gas leases and the details about leasing mineral rights.
Ted Feitshans, attorney and Extension associate professor in NCSU's Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, notes many farmers don't have the information needed to make informed decisions on leasing their mineral rights. He has been conducting workshops for landowners in counties where natural gas is believed to exist in mine-able quantities.
Lee, Moore and Chatham counties are at the center of what may be a large natural gas deposit. Natural gas companies have acquired the mineral rights leases on more than 9,000 acres in Lee County. Currently practices that would make it possible to release the natural gas are not legal in North Carolina but a legislative study on those practices is due out in May 2012.
Fracking (sometimes written as fracing) is a controversial practice that releases natural gas from shale by breaking up the rock. Some say it is environmentally damaging while others say that it is safe for the environment. Feitshans doesn't take a point of view on that practice. Instead, he restricts his viewpoint to helping North Carolina landowners educate themselves and make their own decisions.
"Everything in a gas lease is negotiable," Feitshans says. "It usually is inadvisable to sign a standard mineral rights lease. It is also inadvisable to sign any lease without the advice of a North Carolina licensed attorney, who has some experience with the oil or gas industry or knows someone to advise him or her on oil or gas."
Landowners need to be aware that there are a number of complicated issues that could come up in any lease agreement. Mortgage issues, tax issues and the possible loss of federal programs can be tied to mineral rights. In some cases landowners have discovered when they bought land that they didn't buy the mineral rights to it.
Additional Feitshans' workshops are not currently scheduled but keep in contact your local Extension office to find out if and when one may be held in your area.