Environmental officials say 'fracking' can be done safely in NC

Posted March 16, 2012
Updated March 17, 2012

— After an extensive study of energy exploration in North Carolina, state environmental officials said Friday that a controversial method of natural gas drilling can be done safely if regulations are put in place first.

Much of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' study focused on the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The process involves horizontal drilling 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.

A WRAL News crew visited Pennsylvania last fall to examine fracking, and residents said the gas boom provides an economic boost but also brought traffic and environmental worries.

DENR officials said they reviewed the experiences of other states and determined that a regulated drilling program could be accomplished safely in North Carolina. The agency's draft report noted, however, that more information on groundwater resources is needed in areas where fracking could occur before final environmental standards are set.

"This is not something that can happen overnight. There has to be a whole new regulatory program put in place," agency spokeswoman Diana Kees said.

The study recommends a long list of regulations, including baseline data for water and air quality, setback requirements around drill sites, standards for waste disposal and full disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process. It also calls for industry fees to fund road repairs near drill sites and to hire new state regulators.

"The biggest takeaway is that North Carolina is not ready for hydraulic fracturing. There are a lot of unanswered questions," said Dustin Chichurel-Bayard, spokesman for the North Carolina Sierra Club.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said Wednesday that she also was open to fracking in North Carolina "if you regulate it and put fees in place to have inspectors on the ground."

Her comments came after a recent trip to Pennsylvania for an industry-sponsored tour of large-scale natural gas drilling operations.

Fracking animation Regulators: 'Fracking' safe with rules

"I think the challenge for us will be to determine the capacity of our supply and whether the folks who live in this community are willing to move forward," Perdue said.

DENR has scheduled public meetings in Sanford on March 20 and Chapel Hill on March 27 to discuss its draft report. A final report is due to the General Assembly by May 1.

Officials with the state Department of Commerce estimate fracking could generate about $300 million in revenue and about 390 jobs a year over a seven-year period in and around Lee County alone.

Chichurel-Bayard said developing safeguards for North Carolina demands a long and thorough process.

"We want to make sure that our water and air are protected," he said.


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  • i2cu4sure Mar 20, 2012

    390 jobs per year vs 1000 years of contaminated ground water. Why is NC the only state that believes it can be done safely when to date there hasn't been a state that's successfully performed the operations. Talking to NC Dept Commerce officials is like talking to a drug addict who needs immediate gratification.
    Check out Wyoming and the EPA's conclusions http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/epa-wyoming-agree-groundwater-testing-15878569#.T2iI8NnW52k
    Pennsylvania and the EPA's conclusions

  • knucklehead Mar 19, 2012

    the nay sayers should frack their couch and return some of the gas. They seem to have an abundance.

  • westernwake1 Mar 16, 2012

    So the gas lobbyists have bribed enough DENR people to obtain permission to destroy the environment and drinking water in our state. We will land up just like Pennsylvania and Ohio with poisoned wells and a lot of our landscape the equivalent of toxic dumps.

  • Lamborghini Mercy Mar 16, 2012

    Environmental officials say 'fracking' can be done safely in NC... I've seen and heard all of this "jargon" before, the low down truth is eventually these companies will cut corners on safe practices and inspectors will turn their heads. Cancer rates are already high in NC and if we allow "fracking" this will surely put the icing on the cake. 390 jobs over a 7 year period is a joke and certainly NOT worth the catastrophic risk! I strongly suggest somebody go back to the drawing board and think about the future of NC.

  • yankee1 Mar 16, 2012

    Who's talking nialet? The same people that are against everything yet still drive their fancy cars, watch their big screen TVs,have the 3,000 sq ft homes and give up nothing themselves. You know what their real fear is? It's the fear that more and more people might actually become successful and subsequently challenge their lofty positions in life. That's the fear. Look behind the money that supports the environmental groups. Look into the Bilderberg Group and see what their agenda is. There is no proof anywhere at any time that this process does any major damage to anything but the ego of those who want to stop everything!

  • muggs Mar 16, 2012

    Seems as if alot of people who are getting involved and giving their opinion really have no background in this area to be valid opinions,WRAL and Bev Perdue included,media should report news not try to make news by giving unqualified analysis on subject matter such as this.

  • Uhavenoclu Mar 16, 2012

    They are talking about blowing up certain toxins inside the Earth which could contaminate water supply and cause earthquakes. How could this be safe? People are waking up and won't let this happen. Be Love!

    Now you know why California kept having an Earthquake a day or 2 after they did the tests in Nevada back in the 70s 80s.

  • cushioncritter Mar 16, 2012

    The reason drilling is not allowed is an oil spill might affect rich Democrat donors who live (part of the year) on the coastlines of Massachusetts, California, and Florida. Ruining well water will not affect such donors, and people with well water are "free riders" anyway, using as much water as they can pump. They need to be forced onto chlorinated/fluorinated county water and their usage metered, and this county water expansion program is well underway (thanks, DENR).

  • touchofgrey Mar 16, 2012

    I wonder how much money the fracking/natural gas industry gave her while she was on her trip? I'll bet she would change her mind when the water coming out of her kitchen faucet catches on fire.

  • vraptor Mar 16, 2012

    if it where not safe. how would the epa approve it?

    if petro occurs on this planet naturely. how is it ok in one place and not in another. let us look at the valdez spill. has the area recovered? yes. ahead of schedule.

    petro seeps out of the earth all the time. to land and in the seas. nature cleans it up.

    what do the crazy people in ca do? they build around tar pits that seep petro and gas. you can walk right up to them.

    you can go up to toxic seeps in yellow stone...