Tag Archives: energy policy

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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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

SB 76, the compromised version, heads to the Governor

The compromised version of SB 76, aka the Fracking Bill, passed its final votes and now heads to the Governor. Here’s the write up from WRAL.com on the contents of the bill:

The final compromise version of Senate Bill 76 is far more modest than the original measure, which would have allowed fracking to move ahead March 1, 2015, without an additional vote by state lawmakers.

That provision is absent from the final measure, which reinstates the original requirement for legislative approval of the rules for fracking before permits can be issued and drilling can begin.

The Senate version also abolished the “landmen registry” for agents handling mineral rights leases for landowners, while the House version put the registry back in. In the final version, the state Mining and Energy Commission is directed to study the concept.

The final version still allows the secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to replace the state geologist on the Mining and Energy Commission with another designee of his or her choice. It also removes requirements that commission appointees from the Environmental Resources Commission and Commission for Public Health have respective expertise in water and air resources and waste management.

it also still creates an Energy Policy Council and puts new emphasis on offshore oil and gas exploration.

The compromise, which was closer to the House’s version of the bill overall, won approval in the House with little debate Monday by a vote of 70-40.

The Senate followed suit Tuesday, albeit with less enthusiasm.

“We did the best we could,” said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, the bill’s original Senate sponsor. “The House didn’t want to go along with some of the improvements we wanted to make.

“It’s a small step forward. It’s not quite as far as we wanted to go, but it’s the best we could do.”

No one spoke against the measure in the Senate. The vote was 37-11.

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

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.

Agenda for April 24th meeting of the Compulsory Pooling Study Group

The agenda for tomorrow’s Compulsory Pooling Study Group meeting is copied and pasted below. Note the duration of the meeting is stretched out compared to previous meetings: the group has a lot to discuss between now and their deadline to provide recommendations to the MEC. I hope the public continue to attend these study group meetings despite the level of detail the groups get into on technical issues; group members have continued to show great respect in addressing questions from the public. {On a side but serious note, I am unclear what happens to unaddressed issues if the study groups do not put together a comprehensive list of recommendations before October 2013.}

NORTH CAROLINA MINING AND ENERGY COMMISSION

April 26, 2013, 9:00 am to 1:30 pm

McSwain Agricultural Center, 2420 Tramway Road

Sanford, NC

printable agenda

I. Preliminary Matters

1. Call to Order and Notice of NCGS 138A-15 Ray Covington, Chairman

In accordance with the State Government Ethics Act, it is the duty of every member of the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission to avoid conflicts of interest and potential conflicts. If any member knows of a conflict of interest or potential conflict with respect to matters coming before the Committee today, please identify the conflict or potential conflict at this time.

II. Action Items

2. Cost Sharing in Other States-  Jim Dewbre, Senior Vice President for Land and Business Development, Southwestern Energy

3. Group Recommendations on Cost Sharing and Payment Structures- Chairman Covington

4. Group Recommendations on Indemnification Issues-  Chairman Covington

III. Information Items

5. Opening Discussion on Reporting and Notice Requirements-  John Humphrey

6. LUNCH BREAK

7. Opening Discussion on When to Compel Pooling-  Chairman Covington

Discussion to include whether or not to allow compulsory pooling, pooling of special lands, territorial scope of pooling order, compelling pooling of leased rights to different operators, and allowing drill-through access

8. Agendas for the Next Two Meeting-s  Chairman Covington

May 17 printable agenda

May 31 printable agenda

9. Public Questions and Comments- Chairman Covington

IV. Closing Comments- Chairman Covington

Bill to repeal renewable energy standards discussed today

House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act,” will be discussed this morning in the House Commerce Committee. I think this is a shame if it passes. The state has seen substantial job growth in alternative energy, and the 12.5% goal put upon the energy providers has spawned investment in the development of solar technologies.

I googled the bill this morning and the search results included WRAL’s slated coverage of the discussion, news articles from such places as the Charlotte Observer, appeals from groups like the Sierra Club to rally against this, and then a rally cry to support HB 298 from the Crystal Coast Tea Party’s blog. Out of curiosity, I read through their argument, that tax payers are subsidizing these investments in renewable energy. This statement is quite plainly wrong.

The requirement for energy utilities to purchase 12.5% of their produced energy from renewable sources by 2018 (I’m not 100% sure of that date, but we are on target) puts the onus on those energy utilities. Of course, the utilities will transfer the cost to their customers, but Duke is seeking clearance for their rate hikes to help address foreseen capital costs, ie., construction of new energy production facilities. Renewable energy sources have helped delay those huge capital improvements that a new power plant presents, it is creating jobs, and it is not making a mess. One of the reasons energy companies support home and office energy audits and weatherizing is that it will stretch existing resources and delay that new power plant construction. As NC Policy Watch points out, the renewable energy requirement has been a win-win policy – and I haven’t even touched the need to steer away from fossil fuels.

BT