Tag Archives: energy

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

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Find resources to make your home (more) energy efficient!

technology working backwards

See this resource below put together by Appalachian Voices in which you can search for utility-sponsored rebate programs for homes (and businesses) to improve energy efficiency:

Map to identify resources to improve energy efficiency

I conducted a quick search for programs in a rural community in Halifax County (NC) and found a nice range of options for homeowners even where the utility does not have a rebate program. In this example, there are three utilities in the area, two of which do not provide a program for homeowners. In both of those cases, however, there is a list of resources on the sidebar which homeowners may explore, such as availability of discounted LED or CFL lightbulbs and appliance recycling programs.The utility that does have programs for homeowners are listed with a brief description, and active links to the utility’s program website.

Be sure to check Appalachian Voices’ main Energy Savings

View original post 25 more words

Why I am opposed to Fracking in NC

I have done my best to keep this blog objective: neither for or against fracking. I try to present information as facts, and/or put information in context for the region, only occasionally expressing my opinion. Through this process, I have read and heard a lot of information regarding fracking, and I am at a point now where I must state that I believe hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in North Carolina should not occur.

The principle reason I oppose fracking is the forked-tongue attitude toward science displayed by the industry and policy-makers. I have mentioned several times on this blog that the technology of hydraulic fracturing is incredible – I am awestruck by the ability to drill thousands of feet beneath the surface, determine exactly which strata to turn the drill bit, and drill directionally along that specific bed of rock. That technology is only possible with advanced scientific knowledge. Industry executives assure the public that fracking is safe because of the fine-tuned technology and scientific expertise of the geologist on the drilling crew.

Then the same industry executives dismiss – and actively discredit – scientific data that documents water contamination linked to fracking. Science is not something which we can pick and choose, but can only enhance via additional study to better understand causes and effects. It is disrespectful and downright irresponsible for industry leaders, and policy-makers, to say in one sentence “trust the science” and in the very next sentence say “the science is flawed.”

Meanwhile, contempt for science has crept into the public, and unfortunately into public policy. The natural gas industry is happily playing along with this shift towards scientific illiteracy despite relying on highly trained and skilled scientists. Despite a growing solar industry here in NC, the state has backed off requirements for electric utilities to diversify their energy sources with renewable sources, and is clearly opening the state for fossil fuel extraction on land and offshore. The General Assembly has openly poo-pooed climate science and the data documenting human-impacted climate change, and this has produced extremely short-sighted legislation. The McCrory Administration has shown a similar contempt for science in the easing of regulations at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, with its change in mission towards “customer” service. The public are the ultimate customers and should be outraged by this. Environmental regulations, which are developed with good scientific data on the environment’s capacity to dissipate hazards, present another area in which the natural gas industry has a forked tongue approach by demanding non-disclosure agreements and continued exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act: trust the science, doubt the science.

The broad shift towards natural gas has been a net win for carbon emissions over the past couple years, and natural industry leaders point to this success in citing Carbon emissions being their lowest since 1992. But then, many industry leaders fall in line with the climate-change deniers to block development of a more sustainable energy portfolio. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, even if it does burn cleaner than coal and oil.

Furthermore, the issue of energy efficiency must be included in our energy plan, and is indeed something that can be done immediately should we have the collective will to not just fund but significantly expand weatherization programs. Too many homes across the state are using excess electricity to heat and cool the great outdoors through poorly insulated roofs and walls and leaky windows and doors – and note that these energy-gobbling homes are not confined to low-wealth communities.

A policy developed on willfully selective science simply cannot be trusted. I have discussed fracking with several people at various MEC study group meetings over the past several months, and I agree that there is a lot of land in western Lee County that is not valuable agriculturally. Shifting the land use from agricultural to industrial (which is what fracking on one’s property is) may be a good option for landowners to gain greater livelihood from their property. In my interactions with the MEC and its study group members, I admire the care and openness with which they have carried out their charge. But I must stand against fracking in North Carolina until we have a full scale strategy to address our long term needs and use our natural resources in the wisest manner possible: address energy efficiency first and foremost, develop regulations and a comprehensive energy plan based in the advanced scientific knowledge we have on energy demand, energy sources, and the risks associated with each of those sources.

-BT

Then again, Fracking may come soon anyway

A report this morning that the Governor himself has canceled a trip to Aspen in order to stick around for the end of the legislative session, and to personally push SB 127 with a provision in there to open fracking sooner than the compromised date of July 2015. Here’s the report from John Murawski in the N&O:

A complex fracking policy has unexpectedly emerged in the waning days of the state legislative session, giving rise to fears that lawmakers are making a last-ditch push to repeal North Carolina’s moratorium on shale gas exploration.

The move comes after a recent attempt to lift the moratorium failed to get past House lawmakers who said they intended to keep their pledge to citizens not to allow shale gas exploration until all safety regulations were in place.

But now the state House and Senate are poised to take up the complicated fracking bill that has not been reviewed by a committee or studied at length by lawmakers. The legislation, added into Senate Bill 127 which deals with changes to the Department of Commerce, surfaced Wednesday, the result of eleventh-hour negotiations with lawmakers and the environmental regulators who would oversee fracking here.

Gov. Pat McCrory unexpectedly visited the legislature for an hour on Wednesday and met with Republicans in a legislative strategy session. On his way out of the building, McCrory said he wanted to get an update on key legislation, adding: “I’m interested in energy. Energy development is what’s going to get us moving on the economy.”

The measure includes new provisions that would repeal a key feature in last year’s energy law that expressly prohibits issuing fracking permits to drilling companies until the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission writes safety rules and the legislature approves those rules. Instead of a prohibition, the bill says the state could issue drilling permits as of July 1, 2015, provided that fracking rules “have become effective.”

The chairman of the Mining and Energy Commission, James Womack, a Republican commissioner in Lee County, was surprised by the legislation.

“We didn’t know about it,” said Womack. “All it does is introduce confusion.”

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democratic from Guilford County, said the new language is an open door to issue permits by a specific date, whether the state is ready or not to oversee shale gas exploration.

“They continue to go back on their word,” Harrison said of Republican lawmakers who want to take steps to encourage the energy industry to drill here.

Rep. Mike Hager, a Rutherfordton Republican who has been active in the negotiations, said Senate Bill 127 would not undo the protections in the current law.

He acknowledged the bill may not come to a vote if it remains divisive among Republicans, but he’s confident his colleagues’ anxieties will by assuaged by the time the vote is scheduled Thursday. Hager said some Republicans are wary of last-minute legislation that alters the fracking bill passed last year. The bill, which passed by a single vote, contained explicit language to prohibit the issuance of fracking permits.

“Anything to do with fracking is going to be controversial,” he said. “We don’t want to create the appearance that we’re speeding this up, that we’re recklessly going into this.”

The most complex fracking parts in Senate Bill 127 relate to a severance tax program on the oil and gas industry, based on the grade and quantity of fossil fuel extracted. The money raised by taxing drilling operations would go to local governments, emergency funds and other uses.

Hager said the Mining and Energy Commission will also review severance taxes in the coming year, and the commission’s advice could help modify state law, but this legislation sets a direction.

“We want to attract business, so we don’t want to have the highest severance tax,” Hager said. He said bargain-basement taxes are also a bad idea but said North Carolina should have lower taxes as a matter of public policy.

Bending protocol: passing bills without the votes

This is an update on House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act,” which I wrote about in an earlier post. I hope you’ve heard the news, but Rep. Hager’s sponsored bill failed to pass the committee by a 18-13 vote. Not to be daunted by the will of democratically elected representatives pushing to preserve emerging industries in their districts, Hager brought the bill back. Trick is, this time the vote was vocal. The minority supporting the bill yelled more loudly. No need to actually count votes anymore.

Again, apologies for being MIA the past two months. My schedule will be more flexible now, and I have some topics to post, including the idea of deep well injection, and the re-writing of the disclosure rule… at the simple behest of Halliburton. As the editorial staff of the Fayetteville Observer put it in their “Weekly Wrap” in which they give merits and demerits to news makers:

Demerit: For the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, which abruptly withdrew a proposed rule requiring disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The measure was withdrawn at the request of industry giant Halliburton, which says the regulation would force the disclosure of trade secrets.

The commission vowed transparency in its operations and protection for the state’s people and environment as it develops rules for fracking. But the first time a big energy company complains, it bows down and obeys. This does not bode well.

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?