Category Archives: Local government

Fracking, environmental justice in central PA, and its implications in NC

Lengthy story here about environmental justice in central Pennsylvania.

Barry Yeoman report on environmental justice in heavily-fracked central Pennsylvan

What I find revealing about this investigative piece from central Pennsylvania is something that Yeoman observes at the opening of the second page:

Few Places in the United States are tougher ground for building an environmental-justice movement than the Appalachian counties of central Pennsylvania—politically conservative, temperamentally reticent, and historically reliant on resource extraction. “We’re family-oriented. We’re white. We don’t bother people. We take care of our own,” [a local minister] told me.

The dispersed nature of fracking with the remote, isolated, small-scale industrial sites come with the promise of quick riches in mineral leases, changing the use of that land. The pride of taking care of our own leads to self-protective decisions, swayed by the gas man’s push to boost his bottom line, ensure painless and profitable access for the industry. The very residents sitting upon unproductive soils, a lost and contractually confining poultry industry offering loosing returns, and what seems like a budding American revival combine to turn a blind eye – a willful ignorance – to banking on the short-sighted hope of pulling the last drop of liquid from an already squeezed source while not investing in very real outputs to stretch our personal incomes and create real jobs and industry.

See my previous post about finding energy efficiency programs throughout the southeast, but these underlie the whole energy debate. Use less energy, diminish the demand for the supply, and utilities slow their push to extract every last drop of oil and gas. We can all play a role in reducing our consumption, while at the same time appreciating the developed economy in which we live that affords us the option.

On the bigger picture of jobs and industry, there is vast more opportunity to develop manufacturing facilities for wind and solar energy production here in North Carolina. In fact, North Carolina recently opened a manufacturing facility in Cleveland County for Schletter, a German company, to produce state-of-the-art photovoltaic panels and associate machinations for more efficient capture of solar energy. This facility has a workforce of around 300, I believe. Why chicken farmers are not leasing the rooftops of their chicken houses for solar panels to sell energy to utilities is beyond question. Dare I say that single-use commercial/agricultural facilities should be a thing of the past? Lee County is situated very well for manufacturing, especially in industry building for tomorrow’s economy. Its proximity to the Research Triangle and the growing markets of the state (and the whole southeast) is advantageous. For central North Carolina to get into the energy production industry solely through extracting natural gas is really selling its workforce and residents short. The long-term effect of fracking won’t burden the drillers or the utilities that purchase the gas, but it will linger in the community, both in the personal realm and in the civic and social infrastructures. Extraction of gas has not begun, but division is rampant: elected leaders have slandered their own constituents in the public square! This is a time for planning, and all stakeholders need to be at the table and respected in the process.

BT

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Forced pooling and its potential impact

I am remiss that I did not pass along this information when it was first published by RAFI, but they have put together a very easy-to-follow explanation and graphic on the impact of the Compulsory Pooling policy in Lee County.

Graphic put together by RAFI demonstrating the impact of Compulsory Pooling. See their website, linked at the top of this post, for the narrative and a number of helpful, informative links.

Sanford/Lee County talk of fracking impacts

I noticed this little piece in the Sanford Herald a couple weeks ago in which MEC Chair/Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack spoke to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon focused on public policy. I want to tease out a few parts of this, and include some letters to the editor int he same newspaper discussing what was said at that event and related concerns about fracking development in the region (and let me say kudos to those who took the time to write and submit those comments).

By November or December, seismic testing trucks known as “thumpers” will be seen around Lee County, Womack said. Preliminary drilling for core samples could begin by next spring or summer…

I borrow from what my good friend at Golder Associates told me about thumpers, enhanced by the description Seamus McGraw included in his book, these are devices that shoot a pulse into the ground and measures the sound waves of its echo(s). The different strata of rock will reflect the sound waves differently, allowing geologists to better delineate how deep and thick those strata are. These should not too invasive as firms may regularly use these to find groundwater. The preliminary drilling should enhance knowledge of the strata as well, not only on depth, thickness, and orientation of the rock formations, but also allow analysis on the porosity and chemistry of those formations. Remember I talked about the estimate on the amount of natural gas ‘trapped’ in the Cumnock Formation by the geologist at Clemson University, which he did via a “back of the envelope” calculation based on the dimension of the formation? Getting the details on porosity and chemistry will refine that estimate, and though those test wells themselves may be a minor nuisance, it is a valuable step to help clarify how much gas we really have, and how feasible it will be to extract it. Perhaps a good analogy is getting a biopsy. I don’t know if it is reassuring or not about the timing of the exploratory wells: DENR Assistant Secretary Mitch Gillespie predicted back in March that such wells would be drilled in late 2013.

Keely Wood, a Lee County horse farm owner and fracking opponent, said five Texas towns have been left without water in the wake of natural gas drilling. She asked how Lee or Chatham counties would fare any different, and Womack responded that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources did a study and found that in just half a day, enough gallons flow through the Deep River to provide for all the water local drilling operations would ever need.

Based on the formula that DENR used to calculate water supply, which I am paraphrasing from the 2012 Shale Gas Report, I believe the Deep River does have sufficient flow to supply water to fracking operations. The calculation is something like 20% flow during the lowest recorded 7-day period of flow. As we should remember too well, the drought of 2007 was beyond severe, and we have good record of that flow. If flow in the Deep River during that drought met these minimum standards, than there is sufficient water supply to support this industrial use. The supply of raw water for fracking does not concern me the way that storage, treatment, and disposal of “return” or “produced” water does – and clearly, others are concerned enough to voice it.

I am glad Keely Wood submitted a full letter to the editor after this luncheon to express items not fully addressed there – the comments, though relatively few, show how polarized our society has become, particularly how individuals gloss over nuance and go straight to categorizing individuals at end points of the spectrum. This is a void of leadership – and I must say, in my observation of Jim Womack during MEC and study group meetings, I say he has been very level-handed. But somebody needs to step in between to say that supporting an initiative should not be done by knocking down those with an opposing perspective.

A similar letter begs the question of how widespread the “riches” of fracking will be, and I couldn’t but think on that a bit more this morning. His insights deserve an explanation of how the fees and taxation of fracking will benefit Lee County as a whole. I thought on the back-of-the-envelope calculations (cited above) ranging from potentially $200 million to $5 billion: when comparing that estimate against the DENR projection of 378 wells in the Triassic Basin, that ranges from $530,000 to $13.2 million per well. Remember that the development of a well is approximately $3 million. Of course, each well would have different results, some bringing up much more than average resources, while others bring much less.

“I think you’ll see our median family income go up 50 percent,” he said. “I think you’ll see that instead of the highest unemployment rate in central Carolina, we’ll have the lowest.”

Given what we know of the situation in Lee County: the inequal holdings of mineral rights, the number of property owners bound to unfavorable lease agreements, the relatively short duration for drilling development (all 378 wells in 8 years), and the lesser period of time for high labor demands (not to mention the question of qualified local workforce for this industry), the community deserves a thorough explanation on how development of natural gas extraction will boost median family income and how unemployment will fall.

BT

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Compulsory Pooling Study Group to discuss draft report, Aug 28

Note that the Compulsory Pooling Study Group will meet this Wednesday in Raleigh to discuss the draft report. The agenda is posted online and has a link to the draft report. Apologies for the lack of activity on here – not due to a lack of interest, but for being swamped with other pressing items.

-BT

North Carolina’s regulators trying to do their job, impeded by General Assembly

A nice “tip of the hat” to the process that the MEC is making to do what they’ve been charged to do in the face of powerful legislative elements charging forward despite them. Yes, this piece has plenty of opinion in it, but it provides a nice perspective and is well worth reading. Personally, I want to acknowledge the openness that the MEC has endeavored to honor with public participation. I also acknowledge I am way behind on writing on on-goings with the issue, which I hope to jump back into in the near future.

-BT

Taking away local rule-making authority

Proposed bill to prohibit local governments from setting restrictions that exceed state or federal regulations passed the Senate Commerce Committee this morning, and will apply to the Mining and Energy Commission if passed into law.

technology working backwards

A terrible bill, SB 612, to repeal local rules and restrictions that exceed state and federal standards passed in the Senate Commerce Committee this morning. This bill represents the repeal of home rule, something the state has prided itself on. Planning and zoning authority provided to local governments give those locations valuable tools to control the type of growth and redevelopment that fits into their long term master plans. Repealing these efforts of local governments to build the community their leaders envision is just plain backwards. The bill stinks of greedy developers upset they cannot build in a floodplain.

Environmental rollback heads for Senate vote

What really bugs me is the worn-out mantra from sponsors of these short-sighted bills that they want to make the state more “business friendly.” Last I knew, the state was ranked in the top 3 business friendly states in the country, and that we…

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The State of Things discusses fracking in NC

Great episode of The State of Things yesterday discussing fracking in NC with the reporter who has done the series shared here, Vik Rao of the MEC, Ryke Longest of Duke’s Nicholas Institute, and Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly. The discussion went into a little more detail than what the series have been able to address. What is really fascinating to hear on here is where the panelists agree on issues related to wastewater treatment, storage, and disposal, compulsory pooling, regulatory “teeth,” and the known unknowns of fracking fluids. The area they really did not dig too deeply into is the economic impact, though Rao specifically said we do not really know what that will be until more exploration is done. I actually have to agree with him there since we have very limited data on the hydrocarbon content in our Triassic Basin’s shale beds, though can still address how we want North Carolina to turn the typical boom-bust cycle on its head if fracking happens.

What Is The Future Of Fracking In North Carolina?