The last regional public hearing for “Comments on Mining & Energy Commission Draft Rules” will happen today at 5:00 – 9:00PM at the Ramsey Center at WCU.  The public is invited to publicly comment on the proposed 101

Fracking well - tioga-seneca  well pad

Fracking well – tioga-seneca well pad  (credit: Pro Publica)

Rules for regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for production of natural shale gas.

My view is that the whole fracking phenomenon, as it has been conducted in the United States, has led to unacceptable contamination and toxic exposures to .  In the simplest terms, the movies Gasland 1, Gasland 2, and Triple Divide show the devastation to particular landowners living near drilling sites  or associated liquid disposal sites.   Add on top of that strong correlations between fracking and earthquakes in Ohio and air contamination findings in western “energy” states, the whole phenomenon appears even worse.

WATR entered the fracking fray in July with showings of Triple Divide, a movie produced by Pro Publica.  Over 300 people attended showings at the Mad Batter and the Swain Public Library.  The authors of the movie visit us as part of their national tour and they answered many of our questions.  Many attendees have gone on to agitate in objection to fracking.

After reading Hydrofracking: What Everyone Needs to Know by Alex Prud’homme, reading about the many associated risks, seeing the movies showing actual damages, here is my stance – echoed by many of our members, in piece or in whole:

  • Climate change is happening and it is related to man-produced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases;
  • Therefore a significant amount of hydrocarbons must be left buried, unpumped, even if it is economically profitable to retrieve it – in the short run.
  • The real future must be in renewables.
  • Shale oil and gas will continue for a period of time – The technique is too important to our economy.
  • Before it is phased out, shale gas must be produced with the highest standards of safety. (No wild wildcat drilling allowed.)
  • We have not unleashed the great can-do expertise of American engineering and problem solving to address the very significant risks that the industry is now perpetrating on the American public who live near “shale gas plays.”  We can and must go a long way to solving these problems.
  • In the meantime, it is ridiculous to contemplate shale gas recovery in the Great Smoky Mountain region.   Limited infrastructure (in particular roads and water supplies) and the absolute importance of clean water and natural resources to our tourism industry and to our citizens’ sense of homeplace make the idea of drilling in our area ludicrous.

The fracking industry is under regulated – especially with the draft regulations as presented at the public hearing.  The safety aspects throughout the cycle of drilling should be supervised by competent trained officers of the state, not just inspected.

The summary comments developed by and others seem like reasonable adjustments to reduce risks to the citizens of North Carolina to a tolerable level.  Check the comments out: Review of sections of the draft NC Oil and Gas Rules.  What do you think?  — Public Comments will be accepted by the MEC through September 30.

Roger Clapp