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FrackingThe folks in the right-wing think tanks seem to be getting less and less circumspect when it comes to blatantly repackaging the  propaganda and poll-tested talking points of polluters and other corporate scofflaws as “research.” Take for instance the report distributed by the Locke Foundation this morning in a press release headlined:  “Fracking fluid consists almost entirely of water, sand.” The “key facts” from the report makes the whole fracking process sound about as dangerous as a school custodian hosing down the driveway next to the cafeteria dumpster. Consider the following claims:

-Chemicals used in fracking are about 99 percent water and sand.
-The rest is a blend of chemical additives used to condition the water, prevent well casing corrosion, control the fluid pH levels, kill bacteria, etc.
-Most of the chemicals used for fracking are also found in typical household products, including soaps, makeup, and other personal care products. That means they are chemicals people already willingly encounter daily and safely.
-They are also used in consumer products for homes, pets, and yards.

In other words, “Chill out people; what’s all the hubbub about?”

Well, here are just a few things: Not to nitpick, but most of the fluid surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facility is probably water and sand too. Obviously, it doesn’t take a lot of poison to render a fluid dangerous to living things. For some poisons the measurements are made in parts per million or even parts per billion.

Moreover, even if added chemicals really do only make up 1%  of fracking fluid, it’s important to understand that a typical well can take two-to-four million gallons to frack. One-percent of four million is 40,000 gallons. Read More

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FrackingThe ongoing and fairly remarkable debate over whether the oil and gas industry can prevent the public (and even emergency first responders) from knowing the names of the chemicals that go into the toxic stews that are injected underground in the controversial process known as fracking may be taking a promising  turn.

Though Gov. McCrory, the General Assembly and the state Mining and Energy Commission (which has been designated to usher the industry into North Carolina) have opted thus far to allow the chemicals to remain secret, there is some hope that federal regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency will weigh in to overrule this approach.

This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists: Read More

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Frack-7If you want to understand why the potential for fracking to be a success in North Carolina (either for our economy or our environment) is very, very small, be sure to check out Professor Rob Jackson’s op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. His prediction: A very low economic impact driven my marginal exploration companies with little incentive to clean up the messes they make. As the essay notes:

“The shale gas business is similar to Las Vegas, where the casinos know if enough people gamble they’ll make money because the odds are in their favor. Companies work to set the best odds possible in terms of rules and incentives and then drill a lot of wells knowing that most of them will lose money. They’re banking on the quarter or third that strike it rich. It’s an economy of scale.

In North Carolina, we don’t have an economy of scale. It’s true that we’re still learning about our resource here. We don’t know exactly how thick the shale deposits are. We don’t know whether we’ll have 2 percent organic carbon content or 10 percent, or how much propane, butane and even oil we’ll have.

We do know one thing for certain: The total area of shales in our state is tiny compared with other areas in the U.S. and other countries in the world. Nothing is going to change that fact. It’s also the reason big companies aren’t paying attention to North Carolina.

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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Frack-free-400The  editorial page of the Wilmington Star-News joins the long and growing list of opponents to the fast-track fracking bill approved by the General Assembly last week.

Among other things, the paper notes the opposition of conservative Republican lawmaker Rick Catlin of New Hanover County:

“Republican Rep. Rick Catlin voted against the bill, as did Democrat Susi Hamilton; both are from New Hanover County. They understand that there is too much at stake and not enough protections for the public or the taxpayers in this bill. Hamilton notes that under this scenario, the General Assembly would have no review of the rules the commission develops, despite assurances to the contrary in previous legislation.

Catlin, an environmental engineer and hydrogeologist knows a thing or two about the risks of fracking.

He is not opposed to gas exploration – on the contrary, he sees it as potentially beneficial to the state, environmentally and economically, if it is done safely and correctly. But he thinks the state is giving up too much oversight and too much potential revenue….

In other words, whether the people like it or not, drilling will occur – potentially affecting their property, their health and the sovereignty of city and town boards made up of residents who will have to live with whatever the oil and gas companies leave behind. And the state won’t get nearly as much money as other states that allow this practice to occur.

This is what passes for ‘doing the will of the people’ in the new North Carolina.”