Penn. company illegally trying to purchase mineral rights in NC - WNCN: News, Weather

Penn. company illegally trying to purchase mineral rights in NC

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DURHAM, N.C. - It has been less than three months since North Carolina lawmakers approved fracking in the state and now one out-of-state company is ready to get the ball rolling.

The problem is the company is doing it illegally.

Letters have been arriving in the mailboxes of several land owners in Durham County, asking to lease their mineral rights.

“I’ve been fighting fracking for at least two years now,” explained Betty Thomas. From the sign in her front yard, to the bumper sticker on her car, and even the pin on her chest, Thomas is clearly against fracking. The letter she found in her mailbox came as a surprise.

“Thank you for your participation in the responsible development and exploration of oil and natural gas reserves,” said Thomas, reading the last line of the letter.

The lease offers are addressed from a Crimson Holdings Corporation based in Pennsylvania.

The company sent leases to at least five land owners, including the Town of Chapel Hill and the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. Each lease is offering $5 per mineral acre, for a 12-year lease.

“They must not know who we are,” joked Chris Dreps from Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association. “Not only are we not interested in selling our mineral rights, we are interested in protecting the land."

All five offers Dreps received are for land that the watershed association has turned into nature preserves. The land has restrictions prohibiting the sale of its mineral rights.

The lease lists Frank Sides as the regional agent. WNCN's phone calls to Sides were not answered.

WNCN also checked with the Pennsylvania Department of Corporations, which said it has no record of a Crimson Holdings Corporation.

The address listed on the lease will take you to a website called Campbell Development. Frank Sides is listed on the website.

However, in North Carolina, anyone dealing with mineral rights offers has to be registered. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it has no record of a Sides, meaning all of those offers are illegal.

“Somebody is back in Pennsylvania saying oops!” joked Dreps.

“Even if you were for fracking, this would not be the lease to sign,” said Thomas.

DENR said it is investigating the issue and whether it will file any charges.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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