Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can be done safely “as long as the right protections are in place prior to issuance of any permits for the practice,” according to a draft report from North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

DENR included in the draft a set of initial recommendations, which were developed in consultation with North Carolina’s Department of Commerce, in the event the state’s General Assembly acts to allow horizontal drilling and fracking. 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 agency also recommended that the state:

And DENR recommended the development “of a modern oil and gas regulatory program, taking into consideration the processes involved in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, and long-term prevention of physical or economic waste in developing oil and gas resources.”

Environmental groups in the state, including Clean Water for North Carolina (CWNC), have said DENR’s conclusion that fracking can be done safely isn’t supported by the information in the report. “Perhaps most evident in the report is the overwhelming lack of readiness of state officials and agencies to manage an oil and gas program,” CWNC said.

DENR presented the draft report at a public meeting in Sanford, NC, on March 20 and has scheduled a second public meeting in Chapel Hill on Tuesday (March 27). Comments on the draft report will be accepted through April 1. Written comments can be e-mailed to shale_gas_comments@ncdenr.gov or mailed to NCDENR, Attention: Trina Ozer, 1601 MSC, Raleigh, NC 27699.

DENR’s final report to the General Assembly is due May 1.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue last year signed into law a bill that directed DENR to begin its review oil and gas exploration, determine where fracking may occur in the state and make recommendations to the General Assembly (see Shale Daily, June 22, 2011). Perdue recently said that she believes “fracking can be done safely if you regulate it and put fees in place to have inspectors on the ground” (see Shale Daily, March 19).

The North Carolina Geological Survey believes 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).