Two weeks after a newly formed state oil and gas board met to begin deliberating North Carolina's regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), an environmental group has released a report of what it says are wide-ranging negative ramifications of the practice.
According to the Environment North Carolina (ENC) report, the spread of fracking operations has left "a trail of contaminated water, polluted air and marred landscapes in its wake...[and] fracking's impacts on our environment and health come with heavy 'dollars and cents' costs as well."
A handful of elected officials representing Chatham County and four other localities joined ENC at a rally in Raleigh Thursday to voice their opposition to fracking in the state. Ten counties and cities in North Carolina have already passed resolutions and ordinances against fracking, according to the environmental group.
"More than half of Chatham County residents rely on private wells for their drinking water," said Chatham County Commissioner Sally Kost. "As a county commissioner, I am concerned that as the drillers take their profits and leave North Carolina, the cost of the cleanup will be passed on to the Chatham County taxpayer."
The ENC report holds up Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale in general, and the water contamination dispute in Dimock Township, PA, in particular, as examples of frack-related costs. A spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition told NGI that such claims are "nothing more than fear tactics" and cited the Environmental Protection Agency's determination that water from private wells in Dimock is safe to drink, among other things, as evidence that Pennsylvania's shale experience has not created the wasteland ENC imagines (see NGI, Aug. 27; July 30).
A moratorium on fracking is in place in North Carolina while the 15-member Mining and Energy Commission develops a regulatory program for the management of oil and gas exploration and development activities, including fracking. Both the moratorium and the commission were created by the passage of SB 820, also known as the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act (see NGI, July 9). The bill established a moratorium on fracking until mid-2014 to allow the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to craft an appropriate regulatory framework.
The 15-member commission gathered for an orientation meeting in Raleigh Sept. 6 and is scheduled to meet again Sept. 28. It includes three ex-officio members and four each appointed by the governor, the speaker of the state's House and the state's Senate president pro-tem.
Earlier this year DENR issued a report that concluded that fracking can be done safely "as long as the right protections are in place prior to issuance of any permits for the practice." DENR recommended that the state determine "the distribution of revenues from oil and gas excise taxes and fees to support the oil and gas regulatory program, fund environmental initiatives and support local governments impacted by the industry." DENR also said there is a need for more information on groundwater resources in areas where drilling for shale gas may occur.
The North Carolina Geological Survey has estimated that technically recoverable gas exists in the state's Sanford sub-basin (including Lee, Chatham and Moore counties in central North Carolina) and possibly the Dan River sub-basin (including Stokes and Rockingham counties in northern North Carolina).
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