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There are two excellent reads over on the main Policy Watch site today that you should check out if you haven’t already.

#1 is this excellent and sobering analysis of North Carolina’s new fracking rules and the shortcomings therein by Sarah Kellogg of of the environmental advocacy group Appalachian Voices. As Kellogg writes before outlining the detailing the failures:

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) issued its final vote on proposed changes to the rules regulating the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (i.e. fracking) last Friday. As you’ve probably heard by now, the panel voted unanimously to approve the rule set.

What you may not know is that between July 14 and Sept. 30, the MEC received 217,000 public comments on more than 100 draft rules regarding safety standards for fracking in the state. More than 2,000 North Carolinians attended the commission’s four public hearings, and the vast majority of speakers opposed fracking and asked for stronger rules. The MEC’s response, written in a hearing officer’s report released two weeks ago, showed a considerable lack of consideration for public comments, a fact that disappointed concerned citizens and advocates across the state. Almost all of the recommendations fell short of what the public overwhelmingly asked for, and the few recommendations that strengthen the rules do so quite minimally.

Must read #2 is this news story by NC Policy Watch Reporter Sarah Ovaska about some equally troubling developments at a public charter school in western North Carolina:

Read More

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

Commentary

frack-4North Carolina’s conservative state political leadership may want to usher the controversial oil and gas drilling process known as fracking into the state, but local officials and jurisdictions who would have to contend directly with the mess fracking would create continue to register their opposition.

The Smoky Mountain News reports that the latest such body to weigh in to keep their community fracking-free is the Eastern Band of Cherokees Tribe:

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has joined a growing number of local governments opposing the state legislature’s decision to allow hydraulic fracturing, called fracking, in North Carolina. Earlier this month, tribal council passed a resolution outlawing the practice on tribal lands, a force of authority stronger than what county and municipal governments possess. Read More

Commentary

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

Uncategorized

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