Mineral Leases: How We Were (F)leased
Ellen Z. Harrison
I can’t believe that a few years ago my husband and I signed a lease allowing gas to be withdrawn from under our land in the Town of Caroline, Tompkins County.
The Music Man came to town, and I am astonished and ashamed that we succumbed to his tune. Why did we sign? Partly because natural gas was portrayed as a relatively “clean” fuel, so obtaining it locally seemed reasonable. Partly because the way it was presented to us made it sound inevitable and benign. Partly because the money was appealing.
Knowing what we now know about the pollution potential and the possible transformation of peaceful residential and agricultural areas into industrial zones, of course we would never have signed. I know there are many other landholders who feel the same way.
A new organization, Fleased, has formed with the mission to provide a voice for landholders who leased mineral rights before Marcellus shale gas exploitation was known to threaten our water, land, air and communities. Previous gas drilling was far less dangerous than this shale gas exploitation and that is what most of us thought we signed up for. None of us knew that toxic chemicals would be injected into the land under our homes, woods, farms and wells.
Fleased is collecting accounts of how the landmen who visited us operated—specifically what information and misinformation they gave us about the process and impacts and what pressures they put on us to sign. How many of us were told that the duration of disturbance would be a few months? Or that there was no threat to water quality? Fleased is also examining the content and import of specific provisions of our leases. We are making our presence and concerns known to the political “powers” locally, in Albany and nationally, and we are considering possible legal actions.