A few members of the General Assembly and NC DENR staff are making a trip to Pennsylvania this week for a more thorough walk-through of the communities in the middle of the natural gas industry there. This visit will tour hydraulic fracturing wells in operation, as well as meet with local environmental groups, and a meeting with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The itinerary of this trip certainly looks like it will expose our North Carolina contingent with a nice cross-section (geological pun intended) of the community: gas developers, environmental watch dogs, and regulators. Several legislators had traveled to Pennsylvania back in the fall, but only met with energy representatives – and they were criticized for the narrow focus of the trip. These site visits can be extremely important to understanding the impacts, both positive and negative. Note that during a question-and-answer session hosted by Sustainable Sandhills last July, legislators there admitted to knowing very little about hydraulic fracturing, but knew that it is something being done elsewhere that is not permitted here. Actually observing firsthand the industrial operations, the impact on landowners, the wear and tear on infrastructure, the integrity of the community, and the materials being regulated is enlightening, and should be done as thoroughly as possible.
Considering the wide range of concerns and impacts, it is encouraging to see this group examining the industry and the communities there with a broad scope. What would be very nice to see is this group compare notes with the local leaders from Lee County who will be visiting local leaders in Pennsylvania. We need to learn from others so we get this right for North Carolina.