State legislation passed this year requires the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to study land-based hydraulic fracturing for drilling oil and gas. Fracking, as the method is commonly known, is currently illegal in North Carolina. Our legislators are spending $100,000 on the study, many of whom are intent on lifting the ban. Public comments are now being taken by DENR on a draft outline for the study and the first of two mandated public hearings was held last night in Sanford.
Fracking involves drilling into shale that contains natural gas, injecting huge amounts of water and toxic chemicals under pressure into the rock to fracture it, and then extracting the gas. Fracking is now known to pollute rivers and streams, contaminate groundwater, strain water supplies and emit air pollution.
Several states are now attempting to regulate fracking. One important focus has been on the Halliburton Loophole – which excludes the chemicals used in the process – from federal disclosure rules. This past year, five states passed disclosure regulations. The DENR outline seems to limit disclosure to land owners. Without knowing all the chemicals that could be injected into the land (which include many known or possible carcinogens), how can an accurate assessment be made of fracking’s potential impact on water supplies?
And there’s more heat on the gas drillers here from the SEC and the New York State AG.
The DENR draft report outline appears to assume fracking will occur and focuses on how to regulate it rather than providing an assessment and utilizing the yet- to-be-named advisory group to make recommendations to the General Assembly. A report is due in May 2012. Meanwhile, the legislature still misses the point – to allow more extraction of fossil fuels will increase global warming pollution and slow the uptake in renewable energy – wasting precious time to address climate change.
DENR is asking for comments through October 18 on the outline and the NC Conservation Network is asking us to tell Governor Perdue to not endorse fracking but to consider the true consequences for our state.