Hydraulic Fracturing undermining mortgages

Agreements to frack on private property could cause defaults and plummeting home prices.

By Andrew Schenkel


For the more than one million Americans who have been offered cash for the right to hydraulically fracture their property, an investigation by The New York Times outlines their biggest fears: devalued property and potential defaults.

Image: arimore/flickr

Ian Urbina’s investigation, which went to print on October 20th, points out that deals offered to landowners for drilling rights may be in direct conflict with the mortgage agreements between banks and citizens. According to Urbina’s report, “bankers are concerned because many leases allow drillers to operate in ways that violate rules in landowners’ mortgages.” Banks have traditionally stayed out of the deals made between the gas industry and landowners, which has caused countless families to be living in violation of the terms of their home mortgages without even knowing it. This, needless to say, could cause citizens to contractually default on their loans and for the bank to demand full payment

The recent investigation notes that the technical default situation has not yet occurred on a widespread level, but the fears that the gas industry could be on the cusp of causing another mortgage crisis has created an atmosphere where more red tape would be added to mortgage procedures. From the investigation: “In terms of litigation, there is a real potential for a domino effect here if lenders at each step of the way made guarantees that are invalid,” said Greg May, vice president of residential mortgage lending at Tompkins Trust Company, headquartered in Ithaca.

Another part of the investigation included a presentation given by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, which compared getting drilling procedures in line with mortgage regulations to “solving a Rubik’s Cube.” The presentation outlines the basic questions of how this can be done, while minimizing risk for local lenders.

In recent years, landowners in heavily ‘fracked’ parts of the county, like Garfield County Colorado, have seen property values plummet. Retirees, like Dee Hoffmeister and Lisa Bracken, have experienced this first hand. Both of their families have found themselves powerless to pursue any recourse at recovering the damage done to their personal assets.




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The Silent Treatment: Why those out west are watching the fracking reports from the east.

Oil drilling is doing so well they’re burning natural gas …

by Matt Garrington

Apparently, oil drilling is doing so well, oil and gas companies are burning off nearly one-third of the natural gas they produce in North Dakota. Now, House Democrats are calling for a congressional investigation into these oil and gas drilling companies’ practice of wasting a viable energy resource.

The request follows an article in The New York Times exposing the process. According to the Times, loose regulations in North Dakota has led to the widespread practice of deliberate burning off natural gas, commonly known as gas flaring.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) criticized the practice in a recent letter to House Republicans and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI): “These wasteful practices appear to be a result of high oil prices and low prices for natural gas.  Investments in infrastructure to capture the natural gas associated with oil drilling are not keeping up with the rapid pace of oil exploration and development.”

The New York Times also reports the gas flaring is wasting enough “energy every day to heat half a million homes for a day” and dumps “two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.”

The reason oil and gas companies are burning off the excess production is due to lack or storage capabilities and lack of access to a gas pipeline, which has a widely covered, troubled past. Yet, these corporations continue to extract and waste America’s energy supply with little regard to the trouble created.

“Our goal should be to utilize domestic energy resources responsibly to reduce our dependence on imported energy, not to squander vast quantities of natural gas,” writes Reps. Waxman and Rush.

In North Dakota, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages approximately 1,700 oil and gas leases, which generated $12.3 million in revenue in 2006. The BLM returned $6.2 million to the state. There is no doubt that North Dakota residents will not be happy to learn oil companies are squandering hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue for the state.

These are also the same oil and gas companies who have been complaining about drilling regulations on public lands. In Washington, executives continue to ignore the facts when testifying before Congress – misrepresenting the truth about energy production. In fact, oil and gas activity is actually nearing a 20-year high. So it is wild that these corporations continue to get away with wasting energy, demanding more taxpayer handouts, and double-down on American families hard-earned wages.