With the release of the draft Shale Gas study from DENR has come some heavy disappointment among many people in North Carolina. I want to share a post that I drafted more than a month ago (and I am remiss that I did not post these thoughts at that time) that sheds light as to why the report, along with Governor Perdue’s statement on the issue, came as no surprise to me.
At the risk of sounding non-objective, it’s time I write an opinion on the subject of hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. I will say that this opinion is formed based on review of information, and not on what I want. Here goes:
It will be permitted.
Let me explain. There is technology elsewhere in the country that the energy industry uses to extract resources that lie in some of the rocks of this state, yet there are laws written decades ago before the technology existed prohibiting the use of that technology. These old laws are inhibiting landowners from exercising their mineral rights. As stated by a member of the legislature back in December, ‘this General Assembly leans towards individual property rights’ (when asked about local versus state regulations). For these two reasons, I believe the laws will be updated in a way to allow hydraulic fracturing, with some regulations connected to it. Whether fracking is done or not will then be up to the market.
Now, on the morning of March 18, 2012, let me add a little something to this. Remember there was the study released by the Energy Institute at University of Texas during the AAAS conference that cited no direct contamination of aquifers due to hydraulic fracturing. I want to refer to the summary of that report posted on the BBC website, which includes a good interview with Dr. Charles Groat who headed that study. Listen to the interview. The study cites that the technique of fracturing does not contaminate groundwater, but the whole process of well development, which the public believes is ‘fracking,’ must be studied by “scientists and regulators” to assess true best practices. Bad practices must be eliminated.
So, what DENR’s study says (as far as I’ve read it to this point) is the same thing, basically: ok, this can be done, but in order to actually fracture our hydrocarbon-rich shale beds, we need all the precautions in place to make sure it is done with minimal impact. And as the STRONGER analysis indicated, the state has a great regulatory entity in place with DENR, but not enough on gas and oil regulation. Stay tuned to see how those regulations develop.
Side note: there was another part to that original draft that highlighted several groups I came across that were flat out opposing Fracking. Here is what I wrote:
Numerous groups are galvanizing opposition to the practice of hydraulic fracturing altogether, like one I just tripped across, the Deep River Clean Water Society, while I was searching for a report on the event hosted by the Durham-Orange Sierra Club last week. The ongoing work by Clean Water for North Carolina was recognized by the Independent Weekly with a Citizen Award. The NC Conservation Network, Sierra Club of North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League all have information on how as a resident (or non-resident, for that matter) may work to ‘keep fracking out of North Carolina!’ – I encourage you to check out their campaigns if you feel strongly against it yourself.
I am not a fan of fracking, but I also saw in those stances the need for preparation for it: if we spend so much energy opposing something that is villianized, we create an adversarial environment that will divide communities and thereby miss opportunities to make the absolute best of the situation. All stakeholders on this must work together.