Tag Archives: North Carolina

Agenda for MEC meeting, Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NORTH CAROLINA

MINING AND ENERGY COMMISSION

January 14, 2014

9:00 a.m.

Archdale Building Ground Floor Hearing Room

512 N. Salisbury St.

Raleigh, NC

To join the meeting:
https://denr.ncgovconnect.com/mec011414/

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Draft Minutes from December 6th

MEC Quarterly Report

Sign In Sheets

 AGENDA

1. Call to Order – James Womack, Chairman of the Mining and Energy Commission

2. Moment of Silence and Pledge of Allegiance

3. Welcome and Notice of NCGS 138A-15 – Chairman Womack

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 Commission today, please identify the conflict or potential conflict at this time.

4. Roll Call of Commission Members – Chairman Womack

5. Approval of Minutes from Last Meeting – Chairman Womack

6. Committee Reports (10 minutes each, plus time for questions)

Administration of Oil & Gas Committee – Charles Holbrook

Rules Committee – Amy Pickle

7. Study Group Reports

Coordinated Permitting Study Group and Review of Study Group Report – Dr. Kenneth Taylor

Protection of Trade Secrets and Proprietary Information Study Group – Chairman Womack

8. Administration – Chairman Womack

Review of 2014 meeting schedule and proposed timelines

9. Overview of Proposed Revisions to the EMC’s Water Quality Rules – Evan Kane, DWR

10. Discussion & Action on Chemical Disclosure Rule, Chairman’s Mark – Chairman Womack

11. Lunch Break – 30 minutes

12. Discussion & Action on Setback Rule – George Howard

13. Public Comment

The public comment period will be limited to a total of 10 speakers and each speaker will be allowed three minutes to speak. The sign-up sheet will be available in the Ground Floor Hearing Room from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.

14. Concluding Remarks

a. Commission Members

b. Commission Counsel

c. Commission Chairman

15. Adjournment

Reminder to All MEC Members: Members having a question about a conflict of interest or potential conflict should consult with the Chairman or with legal counsel.

Reminder to MEC Members Appointed by the Governor: Executive Order 34 mandates that in transacting Commission business each person appointed by the Governor shall act always in the best interest of the public without regard for his or her financial interests. To this end, each appointee must recuse himself or herself from voting on any matter on which the appointee has a financial interest.

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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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Exploratory wells coming to… western NC?

A nice summary courtesy of Carolina Public Press of the report DENR Assistant Secretary Mitch Gillespie gave to the Environmental Review Commission of the General Assembly last week draws attention to a an unforeseen plan to explore areas in western NC for natural gas. The report included a list of feasibility studies for fracking, which I presume to mean exploratory wells for core samples, though the article does not specify what the studies will fully entail. The point that raised eyebrows was the identification of a feasibility study in western NC:

the list included a rare mention of a site in the mountain area, identified only as a “precambrian rift basin” in “western NC.”

I admit that I have not really studied the geology of North Carolina in more than 10 years, but considering those precambrian basins are more than 540 million years, those formations have not changed much. I cannot imagine that those precambrian basins are anything but crystalline rock, and though they may be porous, any gas that was there is probably cooked.

Presentation slides from Mitch Gillespie to NCGA Environmental Review Commission

Thanks to a commenter on the article, he points to a nugget of policy presented to the Environmental Review Commission that has a huge impact on local jurisdiction:

…municipalities will not be allowed to prohibit fracking within their boundaries.

There has been a lot of attention given to Colorado after several municipalities there voted earlier this month to ban fracking. Clearly, the legislation in North Carolina has preempted that option for local governments. The state does have that power as they are the body to recognize legal standing of municipalities and counties, but this prohibition on localities is heavy-handed.

BT

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“The End of Country” by Seamus McGraw: a thoughtful perspective on fracking

I finally read “The End of Country” and want to encourage everyone in the potential fracking areas of North Carolina to go to your local bookstore and buy this book or go to your public library and check the book out. Quite simply, his book is appropriately titled, and the content moves from historical, journalistic, anecdotal, and to personal, all of which provide a thorough perspective on life in a fracking area.

Back in March, I had the opportunity to hear Seamus McGraw speak at a forum at UNC-Charlotte, and even walked and talked with him there to ask for his insight. You may remember a post I wrote summarizing that forum, and then sharing Seamus’ advice to have a comprehensive plan around energy policy, energy use, land and resource use. He preceded his speech then with acknowledging he is neither for or against fracking, and has two wells on his property in northeastern Pennsylvania; the book is basically a 250-page explanation of how those wells came to be.

McGraw did his homework in writing this book. He describes the history of natural gas “mining” in nearby Fredonia, New York, in the 1820’s, and then the development of the “Drake well” in Titusville, PA, the first [commercial] oil well in the US.  And then he describes how slick water fracking was developed, almost by accident. Mitchell Energy’s development of fracking as a means to extract natural gas trapped in rock formations almost retired with an effective but inefficient practice; likewise, many petroleum geologists in Pennsylvania almost missed the primary source of natural gas, aiming at other strata around the Marcellus Shale.

The strength of the book comes from the in depth interviews McGraw had with people on the ground, starting with his grandmother. It was his grandmother’s property that he and his sister would inherit that raised the question of why someone would knock on her door to offer money for signing a mineral lease on that land. His research led him through the infamous town of Dimock. He spoke with land owners there, some of whom had not signed a lease, at least not initially. He also spoke with landmen. He heard from neighbors who sought consumer representation as a group. He spoke with Terry Engelder at Penn State. The following are some insights I’ve gotten from the book, and encourage others to share as well.

* The landmen are simply doing their job. They want happy customers and therefore willing to work patiently with property owners, but their job is to get leases signed for the gas-producing company, and get those leases grouped over the gas-producing formations without giving up too much in the process.

* The geology is vital to where a well will be located. This may seem obvious, but it is actually in the details of how the rock formation has been stretched and strained that influences the alignment of the pores where the gas is trapped. Identifying the orientation of these built-in fractures in the formation helps economize how the driller should directionally drill to extract the most gas with the least disturbance.

* One proposed alternative to fracking with water is to frack with a nitrogen gel: the nitrogen would dissipate into the atmosphere, reduce water use, and thereby eliminate the need to control large volumes of fracking wastewater. McGraw actually describes how the first attempts by Mitchell to do hydraulic fracturing relied on a nitrogen foam or gel, but these inconsistent results, especially in deeper wells. For us, though, the orientation of the Cumnock may actually be better suited for this nitrogen gel. The water resources specialist with DER has reassured that there is plenty of water in the Deep River to supply fracking opertations, but considering the fracking wastewater – both the return water and the produced water – has been problematic, anything we can do to reduce the volume of wastewater should be practiced.

* Unknowing consumers have gotten a raw deal, therefore we need very real consumer protection from the state. Those that signed leases early, such as many of the folks in Dimock, got a fraction of what property owners received later. The Marcellus gained recognition for a wealth of shale gas, but the early leases paid very little per acre, and only the Pennsylvania minimum for royalties. This resulted a gross reality of haves and have-mores, and still a lot of have-nots. We know the situation in North Carolina is such that many property owners signed a lease that is not beneficial to them – or of course, property was unknowingly bought and sold without the mineral rights. I do not know fo any course of action property owners may take to renegotiate their mineral lease, but this is exactly the kind of situation to create severe mistrusts within a community.

* There is an overwhelming feeling that fracking is a last resort. Yes, land owners have achieved financial security by opening their place to fracking. But McGraw writes about the perceptions of disparate voices that felt a common dread about the industrialization of their region. He wrote of unlikely alliances that formed to fight for consumer and environmental protection, and how they all recognized the land would never be the same. He also wrote about families that could no longer afford for the land to be the same – how farm subsidies have not risen at the rate expenses have and how communities were losing their next generation of workforce for the lack of opportunities: receiving a signing bonus for their mineral rights would let these families stay on their land.

I encourage you to read this book whether you are pro-fracking or against fracking. The book is informative and entertaining, and never do you feel he is trying to persuade you, the reader. The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, Circle City Books in Pittsboro, and the Central Carolina Community College Bookstore should have copies of “The End of Country” available, and if they do not, ask them to order it. Lee County Public Library in Sanford has the book in its stacks.

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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

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

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.