Barletta Scores Victory with New FEMA Subsurface Hydraulic Fracturing Policy Benefitting Local Property Owners

Jul 10, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today scored victory with a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policy allowing property owners greater control of underground oil, gas, or mineral rights that include hydraulic fracturing on property acquired with FEMA mitigation funds.  Barletta in 2014 sent then-FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate a letter urging FEMA to rescind a policy that banned hydraulic fracturing on property purchased with FEMA mitigation funds, arguing that the policy hurt property owners who only want to relinquish surface rights while maintaining subsurface rights.

Hydraulic fracturing is the practice of recovering natural gas from the ground by the injection of water-based mixtures under high pressure.  FEMA frequently uses funds to purchase land for mitigation purposes, intending to create open space to prevent future structure damage from natural disasters.  Barletta and Shuster argued that the FEMA policy was contrary to the goals of mitigation and implemented without input from state and local governments or other stakeholders.

“This is a huge win for property owners in Pennsylvania,” Barletta said.  “For instance, some homeowners in Wyoming County live in areas that regularly flood and qualify for buyouts under FEMA’s mitigation program.  But under the old policy, FEMA said they had to also relinquish their subsurface property rights, and that no hydraulic fracturing would ever happen on the land again.  These homeowners faced the choice of being flooded again or giving up their rights.  I’m glad that the Trump Administration has reversed this policy and created a commonsense proposal to support mitigation and the rights of property owners.”

When issuing the new policy, FEMA determined that subsurface (below ground) actions associated with hydraulic fracturing generally do not impede open space mitigation efforts.  FEMA will now allow current or future property owners, recipients, sub-recipients, or transferees to sever or transfer underground oil, gas, or mineral rights that include hydraulic fracturing on properties acquired with FEMA mitigation funds.

This policy aligns with the goals outlined in President Donald J. Trump’s executive order, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth (Executive Order 13783), which was signed in March 2017.  The order requires all agencies to review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy sources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or comply with the law.