One of the newest campaigns here at the NCC Eco-justice program has to do with a method of natural gas drilling, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking (also spelled fracing and frac’ing). For those of you who are not familiar with fracking involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand, and chemicals into gas wells in order to open fractures in rock formations, opening up previously inaccessible pockets of gas. Many of the chemicals involved are known to cause adverse health affects, and some of the chemicals used are not even disclosed to the public (protected, legally, as “trade secrets”).
As I’ve started working on the fracking campaign and begun talking to more and more people, I keep hearing different things. In some cases, churches and faith-organizations have leased property for gas wells and actually reaped economic benefits. Yet I’ve heard many stories already about the promise of get-rich-quick leases not coming through. In some cases, the churches did not receive nearly the amount of royalties they had expected from their leases. In other stories, church groups have sold their mineral rights or leased their property for far less than the land’s true, reasonable value. Some church leaders have even told me stories of their church losing its tax exempt status because of the drilling on church property, whether or not they actually make a profit from that drilling. All of these stories are heart wrenching.
There’s no doubt that it’s hard for a congregation or a church organization to say no the promise of extra resources. All of our churches need money to further our mission as the body of Christ. But it’s important that at the same time we be good caretakers of the resources God has already given us. If your congregation is considering leasing property for drilling, it is important first and foremost to contact a lawyer who specializes in oil and gas law.
To learn more about fracking, visit the NCC Eco-Justice Program’s fracking webpage. If you have stories to share about your church’s experience with natural gas drilling, please email me at email@example.com.