Home mortgages may be fracked due to hydraulic fracturing

Some people in Texas have already face problems when trying to get a mortgage or refinance their property.

Mortgages for Drilling Properties May Face Hurdle

Published: March 18, 2012

UPDATE: With huge implications! his This a huge end run around NEPA. Vilsack reverses the agencies position. This is going to be a big story. How can they move against the science AND the law? We need NEPA reviews for all fed agencies. LINK

White House Phone numbers:  202-456-1111 and 202-456-1414

From an email:



On Monday, the New York Times reported that the USDA was planning on issuing an administrative notice telling staff that mortgages on properties with gas leases must undergo a full environmental review under NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) before mortgages are made or guaranteed by the agency.

Unfortunately, it looks like the agency may be bowing to political pressure and reversing course. The secretary of Agriculture today told members of Congress that he is planning on issuing an administrative notice tomorrow that reverses the views conveyed in emails by his agency’s frontline staff and recently reported in the New York Times.


According to The Times:
“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.”

There are many reasons that NEPA reviews are important:

1) A full NEPA review of fracking’s environmental impact would be far broader and more comprehensive than the EPA’s national study of fracking, which is focused exclusively on drinking water.

2) A NEPA review would be open for public input (unlike the EPA’s study). To quote directly from one USDA official: “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.” This sort of transparency is hugely important.

3) If they fail to follow NEPA properly, citizens groups can sue. Doing a NEPA analysis would ensure that federal agencies are complying with the law (since agency officials say clearly in internal emails that the USDA is vulnerable to being sued if they don’t conduct such reviews).

This is a very important development and one that we need to speak up about.

As the USDA emails from staff experts make clear: a full NEPA review, like the type the agency was considering requiring, would be more transparent, more rigorous and comprehensive than anything that is now occurring. The staff experts in the NY office as well as in DC made clear in those emails that the law and the science require that mortgages with drilling leases should no longer be granted “categorical exceptions” from the requirement to conduct such reviews. However, the Secretary of Agriculture now says that tomorrow he is going to release a notice tomorrow saying the opposite.

The reversal by Mr. Vilsack represents a clear case of politics trumping science and law.

About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.