Energy speculators snapped up natural gas drilling leases over Lee County's Triassic shale in a frenzy in 2009. But some energy speculators have begun relinquishing their claims.
In February, Denver-based WhitMar Exploration walked away from a leasing agreement for more than 2,700 acres. That's according to records at the Lee County Register of Deeds.
WhitMar declined to comment to WUNC, but told other media outlets that North Carolina is moving too slowly on hydraulic fracturing.
The General Assembly lifted a ban on fracking in 2012, but blocked permits until rules could be set.
James Womack is the chairman of the state Mining and Energy Commission. He said fracking rules should be in place next spring.
Womack is also a Lee County Commissioner, and said some of his constituents agreed to long-term, lower-yield leases.
“There are a lot of folks that are happy that some of these leases are now coming back available, that the can renegotiate and talk with the actual companies that may actually … be doing the drilling in the future,” said Womack.
Womack added the deep shale deposits in the Triassic basin could prove lucrative for the right company.