Tag Archives: public interest

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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Well contamination complaints point to fracking in 4 states: 3 thoughts

An Associated Press release is making the rounds in various media outlets this morning about well complaints in 4 states that seem to indict fracking as the source of contamination. Here is the article as shared through Yahoo News.

There are a couple items in the article that I want to call attention to:

One, it does not describe how a state defines a “complaint” or how the state compiled the data of these complaints. This may be a matter of semantics, but I want to point to North Carolina: if a private landowner has a well for his/her primary water supply, it is up to the owner to have the quality of the water tested via the health department, and if it tests positive for contaminants, then the local health department will notify the owner of that contaminant. Local Health Departments will keep data from those well water tests, anonymously, and I assume this article is citing such data. Note: Public water supply utilities, which are defined and regulated by the state, are required to publish a Consumer Confidence Report at least once a year to communicate water quality data, and also must issue public notices if their water quality has been compromised.

Two, I agree with Irina Feygina’s statement that…

…comprehensive information about gas drilling problems is important because the debate is no longer about just science but trust.

Regulators must observe data closely for patterns of contamination, and narrow potential sources of contamination from that data set. A private landowner’s well water quality test would not be available to the public, even if it simply states that water quality had been tested (i.e., no results published), but the health department would know where contaminants have been found.

This aspect of public trust in our regulatory agencies certainly raises eyebrows (again) as to why the state of North Carolina turned away grant money to conduct baseline water quality testing in the region likely to be open to hydraulic fracturing. And let restate, I have the utmost respect for the professional staff we have in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. DENR does make a great amount of information accessible to the public, most readily available via a searchable map of various permitted activities.

And finally, it is worth noting the percentages of the contaminated wells that appear to point to oil and gas drilling activity as the source of contamination. Based on the information in the article, 4% of complaints in Ohio, 3% in West Virginia and Texas, and 2% in Pennsylvania were linked to fracking (or conventional drilling in Texas). I do not want to disparage anyone who has lost use of their well, but these are not high percentages by any means. The Penn State study cited in the article documents a 40% failure rate of well quality meeting federal standards (though this is poorly defined since the EPA and DHHS/CDC have different minimum contaminant levels for drinking water); I would bet many rural North Carolina landowners would find the same true of their well water. Nonetheless, given the results reported in this AP story, the gas industry must stop saying there has been no contamination in drinking water due to fracking.

-BT

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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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Workshop for landowners scheduled in Sanford, Dec. 14th

Just passing notice of this workshop for concerned landowners scheduled for December 14th at the McSwain Center in Sanford. The workshop is being organized by RAFI and the Southern Environmental Law Center. Click the link below for the official flyer for more information.

RAFI & SELC Landowner workshop flyer

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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.

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

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?