The board of commissioners of rural Stokes County, NC, has adopted an ordinance establishing a three-year moratorium on oil and natural gas development, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The ordinance, which was approved unanimously with one commissioner absent for the vote, establishes a 36-month moratorium throughout the county, except in incorporated municipalities. It is intended to allow the board time to research the impact of oil and gas development, (including fracking) assess relevant state and federal regulations, and develop any necessary standards.

Recent test drillings by the state’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources indicate that shale gas resources may exist in southeastern Stokes County, commissioners said.

The North Carolina Geological Survey believes technically recoverable gas underlies parts of the Triassic basins in North Carolina. These include the state’s Sanford sub-basin — which crosses Chatham, Durham, Granville, Lee, Moore, Orange and Wake counties in the central part of the state — and the Dan River sub-basin in northern North Carolina, in Rockingham and Stokes counties.

The vote came six months after 120 rules governing oil and gas development, including one lifting a statewide moratorium on fracking, took effect in North Carolina (see Shale Daily, March 17). The bill, also known as the Energy Modernization Act, was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in June 2014 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 8, 2014; June 5, 2014).