Decades ago, when few had heard of shale gas or fracking, major timber companies sold off enormous swaths of land in North Carolina. With a minor adjustment to the property deed, these companies retained the legal right to mine and drill hundreds of feet below the surface of the land they sold.
At the time, no one seemed to pay attention. Over the years the land changed hands and former woodlands bloomed into subdivisions and neighborhoods.
Today those areas have become legal mine fields. The debate over fracking has cast a shadow over any property where the homeowner has little legal say over what happens underground.
In some cases, residents have trouble buying and selling their property. Some financial institutions have stopped issuing loans for homes built in such areas, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of acres in North Carolina.