Raleigh, N.C. — For hundreds of people who showed up in Sanford Tuesday night for a public hearing about natural gas drilling in North Carolina, fracking is a dirty word. Others, however, said they're open to cautious energy exploration that could help the state's struggling economy.
"We do not need fracking in North Carolina. In fact, it should be banned internationally," said Raleigh resident Melissa Lomax. "It is a debacle as far as the environment. It's an unregulated industry."
Despite concerns about fracking, state environmental officials said last week that the controversial method of natural gas drilling can be done safely if regulations are put in place first.
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is the process of drilling horizontally into underground deposits of shale and then pumping a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into a well to break apart the rock and release natural gas.
Gov. Beverly Perdue also said last week that she was open to fracking in North Carolina "if you regulate it and put fees in place to have inspectors on the ground."
But many residents along the Deep River Shale Basin in Lee County, a probable site for fracking, were outspoken in their opposition Tuesday.
For advocacy group Earth First, the concern is all about environmental impact.
"We are here to speak our mind and tell people we don't think there is any way you can regulate fracking that will protect the environment and communities," said Earth First spokeswoman Tamara Matheson.
Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, said he supports fracking because it is likely to bring jobs to the area.
"Jobs are very important. The jobless rate went back up above 13 percent this month," said Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce. "We are very concerned about that, but we think the careful development of natural gas in Lee County could be a boon to the state and a boon to our business community here."
Another public hearing on the issue is scheduled for March 27 in Chapel Hill. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is expected to give its final report on fracking to the General Assembly in May.