Environment

Oil and gas commission will meet (for real) on Thursday — oddly, at the same time as the Energy Policy Council

The oil and gas commission will meet Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2420 Tramway Road in Sanford.

The state Oil and Gas Commission, whose previous meeting derailed because it was illegally convened, is scheduled to meet Thursday in Sanford. However, there remain some statutory questions about who called the meeting and if they did so in writing, as required.

The meeting will be held at the McSwain Education & Agricultural Center, 2420 Tramway Road, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Since there is no chairman, state statute requires five commission members to request the meeting in writing. Jim Womack, the controversial former chair who originally called the illegal meeting, told Policy Watch via email that seven of the nine members asked for the meeting to be held at the particular time and date. He did not respond to the question as to if it was submitted in writing. The NC Secretary of State’s Office, which lists public meetings on its website, has not returned calls requesting that information.

The timing of the meeting is also curious. The full Environmental Management Commission holds its day-long regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, as does the Coastal Resources Commission. The state Energy Policy Council also convenes at 10:30. These meetings are scheduled from two months to one year in advance.

Because of these scheduling conflicts, the NC Department of Environmental Quality could be unable to send a representative to Sanford, said spokeswoman Bridget Munger.

The oil and gas commission is expected to elect officers and to discuss complaints filed by companies that want to frack for natural gas in Lee and Chatham counties. Both counties have enacted a temporary moratorium on fracking. One of the complainants, Orus Patterson, president of the “local geological service company and potential petroleum industry operator,” claims that the moratoriums usurp state authority and “interfere with my ability to complete proposed activities, including developmental work necessary to secure drilling permits in these areas.”

The red dots indicate the oil and gas wells that have been drilled in North Carolina from 1925 to 1998. None of these wells is associated with fracking. (Map: NC DEQ)

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