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Looks like those leftist tree huggers at the EPA are at it again. This is from AP:

“The Obama administration floated a plan Tuesday that for the first time would open up a broad swath of the Atlantic Coast to drilling, even as it moved to restrict drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas off Alaska.

The proposal envisions auctioning areas located more than 50 miles off Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia to oil companies come 2021, long after President Barack Obama leaves office. For decades, oil companies have been barred from drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, where a moratorium was in place up until 2008.”

Meanwhile, the good folks at Environment NC have released this excellent statement in response to the Obama administration’s momentary departure from rationality:

“New plan puts North Carolina in the cross-hairs for offshore oil drilling and exploration

Raleigh, NC- Today, Secretary Sally Jewel and the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) released the five-year draft plan for offshore oil drilling, and North Carolina is front and center.

‘From Kitty Hawk to Cape Hatteras, the Outer Banks are one of North Carolina’s shining gems,’ said Dave Rogers, Environment North Carolina state director. ‘We’re putting our natural heritage at risk if we allow offshore drilling off our coasts.’

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Commentary

FrackingAs you may have heard, North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission held the last in a series of meetings last Friday during which they considered public feedback on the draft fracking rules. Despite having received over 200,000 public comments over the last few months, the Commission only made a few little changes to the rules. They have now come up with a finalized set of rules which will eventually make its way to the General Assembly, where it is likely to be approved. Given that fracking may begin in North Carolina as early as next year, you may want to know a thing or two about these rules.

The majority of the public comments called for stricter safety rules. In response, the Commission made some of the following changes:

  • Unannounced inspections will be permitted – the rules will now allow inspections to take place without prior notice to drillers, in order to encourage the drillers to maintain ongoing compliance.
    (BUT note: the rule is just providing permission, it is neither requiring that inspections take place nor requiring that they take place with regular frequency)
  • Amount of time for permit application to be approved or denied will be increased to 180 days – this allows the public to have more notice and opportunity to comment on the request.
  • So-called “fluid pits” will be required to be larger and continuous monitoring will be required – fracking fluid is held in large open pits, which can be a huge safety hazard. The Commission did not ban open fluid pits but rather just increased their size, in order to prevent spills, and increased the frequency of monitoring for leakage into the ground, from monthly to continuous.

Among the items the rules don’t address: Read More

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MCcRORY SIGNS FRACKING BILLGovernor Pat McCrory, backed by Republican legislators and his Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, signed the controversial Energy Modernization Act Wednesday morning. The legislation speeds up the start of natural gas drilling in North Carolina.

The governor said the bill, which zipped through both chambers last week with limited debate, will bring good jobs to rural North Carolina.

“We have watched and waited as other states moved forward with energy exploration, and it is finally our turn. This legislation will spur economic development at all levels of our economy, not just the energy sector,” said McCrory.

The governor also pledged that the new law has the necessary protections for the environment.

“The expansion of our energy sector will not come at a cost to our precious environment. This legislation has the safeguards to protect the high quality of life we cherish,” continued the governor.

Environmentalists have warned that the bill doesn’t address some of the most controversial elements of the fracking process, including forced pooling and the disposal of toxic fracking fluid.

“This bill sets a course for fracking to begin in 2015 by default, even though state regulators have not yet proposed draft rules for public comment.  This approach — buying a pig in a poke — will not protect North Carolina from the devastating impacts this industry has visited on communities in other states,” said Grady McCallie, policy director for NC Conservation Network.  “Lawmakers have broken the promise they made in 2012 and again in 2013 — to have the finished package of rules in front of them before deciding whether to allow fracking here — and by his signing, Gov. McCrory has signaled his willingness to put public health and communities at risk, too.”

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The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has finalized the proposed safety regulations that companies will need to follow in order to frack for natural gas in our state. Over the past 18 months the commission has adopted 120 rules they believe will ensure that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely.

Still environmentalists worry the process has been rushed. Mary Maclean Asbill with the North Carolina Environmental Partnership and Southern Environmental Law Center says there are very real concerns that fracking will contaminate the state’s groundwater.  Asbill appeared last weekend on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the coalition’s concerns. (Click below to hear an excerpt of that interview; the full radio segment is available here.)

The next step will be a series of public hearings this August in Wake, Lee and Rockingham counties, giving citizens one last chance to weigh in. The Commission is slated to present the rules to the General Assembly by October.

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Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill in North CarolinaWe’ve all been reading about the ugly environmental disaster unfolding in Eden at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River coal-burning plant.  As of this writing, the coal ash pond pipe has been plugged, but not before dumping more than 80,000 tons of waste into the Dan River.

Meanwhile in Washington, the US EPA is considering other options for getting rid of coal ash in the future – mixing it into cement and wallboard during manufacture.  Utilities face more stringent regulations at coal plants, so many support this approach, which is called “beneficial reuse.”

You can read more about the risks of mixing coal ash (which contains lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium) into consumer products from the Healthy Building Network here.  US EPA regulations will be released in December.