barbara lifton

Emma Jacobs / WRVO

Elizabeth Larkin's a stickler for the letter of the law. That's made her a bulwark against abusive land leasing practices.

Larkin is Cortland's county clerk, and like others across the state, is one of the few people who sees the contracts made between drilling companies and landowners. Leases are considered private contracts, and therefore aren't overseen by any agency at the state level.

As a result, Larkin says she sees companies try to record improper documents all the time, including adding five year extensions to leases that explicitly rule them out.

Emma Jacobs / WRVO

The state is still writing rules for natural gas drilling. But local banks say they’re already restricted from issuing some mortgage or home equity loans by gas leases.

That’s because contracts may not always include enough protections for homeowners.