Archives

There’s been some news of interest recently about Chesapeake Energy, one of the natural-gas companies behind the push for North Carolina to lift its ban on fracking, the controversial drilling method for natural gas.

The company is facing charges of conspiring to fix land prices, and of shorting landowners royalty payments in order to keep the company afloat.

FrackingAs the Carolina Mercury pointed out last week, Chesapeake Energy was one of two energy companies indicted in Michigan this month on criminal charges of conspiring to keep property prices low in an area over a shale belt.

(The criminal charges and an ongoing federal anti-trust investigation stemmed from reporting by Reuters. Click here to read more.)

Here in North Carolina, Chesapeake Energy took legislators on fact-finding trips to Pennsylvania in 2011, as the lawmakers were considering a bill that eventually lifted the ban on fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing involves setting of explosions deep into wells in the ground and then blasting with water and chemicals in order to extract natural gas caught in shale layers. There’s particular interest in bringing fracking to the Sandhills area of the state where a large underground shale belt straddles Lee and Chatham counties. (Scroll below or click here to see a map of shale deposits.)

The state’s Energy and Mining Commission is working to put rules in place before drilling can begin in 2015.  Many of the chemicals used in fracking have had links to cancer and other health problems, and groundwater contamination has been reported in other areas of the nation.

Chesapeake Energy has also run into financial problems because of the drops in natural gas pricing,  and apparently edged itself away from the brink of financial collapse in the last few years by cutting back on the royalties paid to landowners, according to a new report out today.

Read More

North Carolina’s natural environment has been inundated with a lot of poison in recent days — so much, in fact, that a lot of folks may have forgotten the fact that state leaders are pushing hard to inject a lot more poison into the ground and water in the coming years. Happily, one of the state’s most celebrated native sons is speaking out against it in an ad on behalf of the good folks at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Click below to watch it.

YouTube Preview Image

John SkvarlaOne of the signature “accomplishments” of conservative state leadership in North Carolina in recent years has been the steady and ongoing rollback of state environmental protection laws and regulations. This is not to imply that the state has ever done enough — even under past General Assemblies and governors — to truly protect our ever-more-fragile air, land and water, but it’s also clear that things have gotten much, much worse in recent years.

Whether it’s the efforts to deny climate change and sea-level rise, fast-track fracking and off-shore oil drilling, stop efforts to clean up Jordan Lake, build artificial sea walls along the coast, roll back scores of rules and regulations, pack various commissions and boards with advocates hostile to environmental protection, limit land preservation, slash funding or just defund, demoralize, break up and change the mission statement of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources itself, the conservative agenda has been (and continues to be) a long and ambitious one.

Fortunately, one of the chief architects of the effort, DENR Secretary John Skvarla, has some advice for his agency employees who may feel a sense of discouragement at their increasingly disfavored status: Don’t worry, be happy! Read More

Water pollutionThis morning’s NC League of Conservation Voters news update contains a link to a very helpful and informative blog post on environmental policy by a former DENR official, who’s now out on her own. The post is entitled “Environmental Policy in N.C. : Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014.”

The League’s update also provides this very troubling news (especially in light of the water pollution disaster in West Virginia in recent days):

“Administrative Watch: Clean Water on the Line

Every meaningful state protection for clean water in North Carolina will be at grave risk of being cut back or eliminated in the rules review process starting this week in Raleigh. Read More

An Associated Press investigation into water contamination linked to fracking shows contamination in multiple wells in at least two states, information which is contrary to industry statements in the past. This investigation comes on the heels of the recent confirmation that fracking practices were the cause of earthquakes in Ohio in 2011, where fracking waste has been injected deep underground.  Earthquakes have also been documented in Oklahoma and Texas.  As North Carolina considers this energy source, it should closely monitor this information.

“Among the findings in the AP’s review:

— Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.

— Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. None of the six confirmed cases of contamination was related to fracking, Bruce said.

— West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said.

— A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven’t confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.”