I’ve had this thought off and on for almost a year now, but I’m just now putting it into a post: saying “no” to fracking is not enough. Clearly, there are very valid arguments against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas here in North Carolina:
- We don’t know the public and environmental health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing fluids (despite what the industry says, and despite the lack of EPA findings because industry has very effectively stalled and derailed the EPA study from Wyoming).
- The location of the shale in the Deep River Basin, really the only viable source for shale gas in NC, is relatively shallow and is broken by faults and diabase dikes, leaving the groundwater (which moves via diabase dikes, by the way) more susceptible than other shale gas areas like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, or North Dakota. We should note that Gov. McCrory would like to open off-shore to exploration, and there may be resources out there, as well as additional Triassic Basins underneath the sedimentary rocks of the Coastal Plain.
- The amount of gas in the Triassic Basins (small amount in the Dan River Basin in addition to that in the Deep River Basin) is quite small compared to other basins; combine that with the price of natural gas and the amount of infrastructure investment needed in a state with no oil or gas industry, it’s just not economically attractive (despite what landmen would say).
- Note that amount of gas doesn’t contribute much to energy independence.
- And as previously pointed out, the number of jobs that would be created is not that many.
But saying “no” is not enough. The chair of the Mining and Energy Commission, Jim Womack, said back in September in an interview with WRAL-TV:
I don’t think there’s any question that the shale gas industry is good for North Carolina… Anybody who argues against that is arguing from an emotional, not a logical or factual standpoint.
The vice-chair of the MEC, George Howard, voiced contempt for the stakeholder process of developing regulations (I will refrain from discussing the oddity of his conflict of interest since he runs a company that profits off the enforcement of the Clean Water Act). Saying no to this group will not sway them, yet those opposed to fracking must continue with that message.
Let me add that those opposed to fracking must say “yes” equally as loud in other ways, and here’s what I mean by that. There are property owners who are genuinely hurting financially and willingly put their future’s trust in a mineral lease. Local business leaders say that with 12% unemployment, fracking would be beneficial, and there’s the added bonus that natural gas development here would help this country be energy independent. These landowners need a boost. The unemployed need a boost. Keep saying no fracking, but say yes to Lee County agriculture, businesses, and places. Make weekend trips – week after week – to visit and invest in the local businesses there: tell businesses how you chose to come there and appreciate the place for what it is. Go out of your way to buy garden supplies at Big Bloomers, see a show at Temple Theater, get a milkshake at the Dairy Bar, explore the Deep River or play a round of golf at Tobacco Road… those are the places I can think of off the top of my head, but here’s a better, comprehensive resource. Having a robust economy in the area might just push this issue to the back burner.
And do landowners want to get in the energy industry? Contact the NC Solar Center about getting an assessment of your property to lease for solar panels: utilities are in the process of generating a certain amount of their electricity via renewable resources and the lease per acre for solar panels is comparable to the offers from natural gas developers. I don’t know the industry of solar energy, but I do see that the renewable energy sector in NC grew to exceed 15,000+ jobs last year (which is 5 times the number of jobs fracking would create), and also recall the story a solar panel manufacturer opening in Vance County last year. Though wind energy is less reliable in this part of the state, it’s still worth exploring that option. I would hope landowners and neighbors would find their property and the natural and human resources already available are far more valuable than the potential mineral extraction may hold.
Of course, there are the every day steps that we need to take to curb this push for natural gas development. Natural gas is now fueling our power plants more cleanly than coal and it’s coming to them cheap right now. This is good, but we need to take steps to reduce our energy consumption: weatherizing homes, installing energy-efficient fixtures, etc. And avoid using plastics as much as possible.