Want a mortgage and yet you’ve leased your mineral rights? The federal government has found a new way to stop you: an environmental impact study. I have no truck with government give-away programs, whether to General Motors or, as the Times calls these people, “low-income and living in rural areas” and if all such programs were eliminated I’d call it an improvement. But this singling out of one tiny group is clearly designed to stop one specific activity and nothing else – hog farming, for instance. The government is forcing the homeowners to choose between government money or the oil companys’ (although private lenders will also stop lending once these federal requirements hit) and it’s doing so at the behest of the Rockefellers and their allies.
Imagine, if you will, what would happen to your own mortgage application if you had to undergo an environmental impact statement, complete with public hearings attended by federally-subsidized, professional protestors from Washington. Money quote is in bold.
The proposal by the Agriculture Department, which has signaled its intention in e-mails to Congress and landowners, reflects a growing concern that lending to owners of properties with drilling leases might violate the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires environmental reviews before federal money is spent. Because that law covers all federal agencies, the department’s move raises questions about litigation risks for other agencies, legal experts said.
Drilling for gas has become more common using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, which breaks up rock deep underground using water and chemicals under high pressure. The drilling has been an economic boon — creating jobs and reducing dependence on foreign energy. But it has raised concerns about contamination of water wells, air pollution and above-ground spills.
Over the last year, some banks and federal agencies have started revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values.
“We will no longer be financing homes with gas leases,” Jennifer Jackson, program director for rural loans in the Agriculture Department’s New York office, wrote in an internal e-mail this month, citing several factors, including the costs of conducting such reviews.
“There is substantial controversy over the extent, range, and issues associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for gas,” Mr. Bailey wrote in a March 8 e-mail to members of Congress, adding that “for a number of years” the loan program typically had considered its mortgages exempt from environmental review. But the agency notice will clarify that this is not the case for properties with drilling leases.
Requiring environmental reviews for such properties will be slow but will allow the public to have more say in the matter, he added.
“Approval of such leases would allow for a number of potential impacts to possibly occur which would need to be analyzed in a NEPA document that would be reviewed by the public for sufficiency,” he wrote.