LETTER: Covington's presence on MEC is outrageous

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

To the Editor:

In a recent Reuters news story, "In North Carolina, Fracking Rights Rise to the Surface [2/8/13]," Vince and Jeannie Rae described their tale of woe. They experienced a fracking nightmare in Arkansas and decided to move to N.C., only to encounter yet another nightmare in their adopted state. They were bushwhacked in Arkansas over mineral rights and forced pooling, and the same thing is happening again.

Ray Covington, member of the Mining and Energy Commission [MEC] and Chair of the Compulsory [aka Forced] Pooling Study Group, is a major landowner in Lee County and co-founder of N.C. Oil and Gas. Its chief goal is "to frack this land." He recently likened himself to that of an attorney defending a client.

“It’s just like a civil rights attorney who represents a client and shares the profits if they win,” Covington said of his organization's sharing of profits in exchange for representing landowners — except that he is a "landman" who also was appointed as a "conservationist" by Rep. Thom Tillis.

Of course, he says he has no conflict of interest. Indeed, he claims to be looking out for the interests of Lee County landowners. Even if this is true, how does that remove his obvious and glaring financial conflict of interest? Every decision Covington makes as a member of the MEC, by definition, can only be in his self interest. As such, he should recuse himself from all such deliberations.

Indeed, the chair of the MEC, James Womack, should force such recusal. This is the regulatory pretense or sham, and it is simply outrageous that no one, not anyone on the MEC, anyone at DENR, nor anyone in the General Assembly, has called for his resignation. Such is the state of politics in North Carolina: good old boys taking care of one another.

David Streifford
Preserve Carolina