The Boss worries that wildcatters might be a worse problem in Dade than elsewhere because so many property owners here don't own their property rights.
County Executive Chairman Ted "The Boss" Rumley was riled enough about the possibility of fracking in Dade County to make an issue of it at Thursday night's regular monthly meeting of the county commission.
"It's not something we need in this county," he said.
Fracking is slang for hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process of extracting oil and gas by injecting a water mixture deep into the earth at high pressure, creating or expanding fractures in the rock. Proponents say it is a safe and economical way to get domestic oil. Opponents say its side effects include everything from poisoned drinking water to earthquakes.
After Rumley and the other county commissioners at their special called meeting last week heard a presentation about fracking by Dr. Tamie Jovanelly and Maddie Bess, geology scholars at Berry College, the Boss had clearly joined the latter camp. Fracking has ruined ordinary people's wells and cracked the foundations of their houses, he said.
"Right now there's no law to keep this stuff from happening," said Rumley.
But the fracking lecture had been enough to get the commission motivated to change that, he said. The commissioners had already consulted the county attorney and begun work on a resolution or ordinance against fracking. "Hopefully by next meeting we can have a first reading on it," said Rumley.
Northwest Georgia sits on the Conasauga Shale Field, which stretches from Alabama to Tennessee and has been estimated by some geologists to contain trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. The difficulties and expense of getting it out, coupled with the vagaries of the fuel market—when gas is cheap, it becomes less attractive to invest in new sources—have kept our area "unfracked."
Fracking did briefly become a local issue in 2013 as plans for drilling near Rock Spring, Ga., were announced, then abruptly abandoned. But in 2015 and '16, the matter resurfaced with news reports of Buckeye Exploration, the company that in 2010 dropped an oil well near Dalton, seeking to buy up mineral rights in nearby Floyd and Whitfield counties. Some reports said the company was leasing property owners' mineral rights for as little as $5 an acre.
Rumley says in Dade, oilmen would not in many cases even have to part with the fiver. "There's a lot of property owners in this county that do not own their mineral rights," said the Boss. Questioned after the meeting, he explained that a Florida company had bought up much of Dade's mineral rights in the 1940s and '50s. Many homeowners would be shocked to find they could not in fact stop a wildcatter from drilling on their property, he said.
Other local governments in the area are in fact moving to tighten up laws protecting their communities from such an eventuality. Rumley wants to do that for Dade: "It would be a simple thing: No fracking," he said. "We're not just talking about this. We're trying to point-blank solve it before it even happens."
If readers would like to hear the lecture on fracturing, the geology professors from Berry are offering it at several libraries around northwest Georgia this fall. It will be at the Summerville library (360 Farrar Drive) at 5:30 p.m. this Tuesday, Sept. 6; at the Calhoun Library (100 N. Park Ave.) at 5 p.m. on Sept. 14; at the Cartersville library (429 W. Main St.) at 6 p.m. Sept. 22; at the Dalton library (310 Cappes St.) at 6 p.m. Sept. 28; and at the Rome library (205 Riverside Pkwy NE) at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 5. It continues in October at libraries further afield. For more information, readers may email Dr. Jovanelly at email@example.com.
Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade Public Library, said she had no plans at present to host the lecture but would ask Rumley if he'd like her to see about bringing it to the county.