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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.

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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.”

The latest outrage in the climate change wars comes, not surprisingly and appropriately enough, from Exxon. Think Progress has this story entitled “Exxon is behind the landmark climate report you didn’t hear about”:

Climate change is already impacting all continents. But it isn’t yet impacting all companies. The latest installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report released on Monday confirmed the former. A report released by Exxon Mobil the same day about how greenhouse gas emissions and climate change factor into its business model found that climate change, and specifically global climate policies, are “highly unlikely” to stop it from selling fossil fuels for decades to come. Read More

Picture of Richard Glyndon CatlinReporter John Murawski has a fascinating story in the morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer in which he explains one of the enormous and unsolved problems with fracking: What to do with the waste.

According to the story, the current plan for the would-be frackers in North Carolina is to truck all of the millions upon millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that would be produced via fracking in the Piedmont down east to be injected underground.

But a conservative Republican lawmaker from that area who also happens to be a hydrogeologist is quoted in the story as saying this is a terrible idea. Read More

The newly released 80 page report from the experts at nonprofit group State Review of Oil & Natural Gas Environmental Regulations makes it clear: North Carolina needs a more robust regulatory infrastructure to handle any kind of significant increase in oil and gas exploration. Widespread drilling — much less fracking – are not the kind of issues for which it will be sufficient for state regulators to simply “wing it.” 

Here’s how the report puts it:

Program Recommendations

The review team recognizes that North Carolina is evaluating the potential development of its oil and gas resources and is also evaluating changes that may be appropriate if that development were to occur. While this report makes no recommendations on whether or not such development should occur, the review team has made a number of recommendations for consideration if that development occurs. A summary of the more important recommendations follows.

I. Need to Develop Formal Standards Read More