DENR says fracking stance unchanged despite 'news release'

Posted March 27, 2012

— State environmental officials said Tuesday that a phony email was sent to news media proclaiming that regulators had backed off their belief that a controversial method of drilling for natural gas could be done safely in North Carolina.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a draft report two weeks ago that outlined the need for regulations before hydraulic fracturing could occur in North Carolina. Once rules were in place, however, drilling wouldn't pose major risks, the report said.

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.

Opponents of the process say it would damage water resources and contaminate the environment, while supporters say it would provide an economic boon to central North Carolina.

DENR held a public hearing last week in Sanford that drew scores of people on each side of the debate. Another public hearing is set for 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at East Chapel Hill High School, and a third hearing will be held next Monday at Fearrington Village in Chatham County.

Agency spokeswoman Diana Kees said officials haven't determined who sent the fake email, which was purported to be from DENR Secretary Dee Freeman, although it never referred to him by name. The "news release" didn't include any contact information, and no one owns the askncdenr.org domain name used to send the email.

“Due to miscommunications among staff during a period of increased workloads, DENR released a conclusion that was premature and not adequately supported by available scientific evidence,” the release quotes the DENR secretary as saying. “We wish to apologize for this oversight and remind the public that this report is only a draft.”

The bogus news release said state regulators still had to study U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research on groundwater in Pennsylvania, where fracking is growing rapidly, before taking any position.

"At this point DENR does not have enough information to conclude whether hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in North Carolina,” the release quotes the DENR secretary as saying. "We have developed recommendations for a hypothetical regulatory framework. However, DENR is not confident at this time that any regulatory framework would be strong enough to ensure the safety of hydraulic fracturing.”

Kees said simply that DENR "stands behind its recent report."

A final report is due to lawmakers in May.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Karmageddon Mar 28, 2012

    Cheap natural gas replaces dirty coal and leads to lower heating bills... don't let a few NIMBY's screw it up

  • 444lighthouse Mar 28, 2012

    We need more integrity and honesty from all points of view. I don’t believe hydraulic fracturing is going to save the economy, or reduce North Carolina’s dependence on foreign oil. I do feel it can have a detrimental affect on our environment. History has shown big money companies will lie, cheat, steal and bribe to get what they want. With the way this is being steam rolled in, Greed is powering the drill. I guess someone thought they could fight fire with fire.

  • Alex25 Mar 27, 2012

    We NEED the energy --- we NEED the jobs.

    Move over DENR. Your time has expired!!

  • cherokee43v6 Mar 27, 2012

    Nice job clouding the issue. If DENR says that the so-called 'news release' is a fake, then the only reason to quote the fake news release is to take a political stance in alignment with those who sent out the fake release and thus, through 'fog of war' get people believing the false information as legitimate.

    Case in point, see earlier comments here quoting the fake release as gospel.

  • douglascarey Mar 27, 2012

    increased seismic activity in Ohio, land owners in PA being abused by gas companies with huge ponds of toxic waste, land owners in NY with toxic wells, all because politicians are being bribed with campaign money and promises of a few jobs.

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 27, 2012

    This is not the time to let some company who don't have a vested interest in the future of NC, nor do they live in NC, come in here with a questionable practice. Those that get rich off this can leave if there a problem created, the rest of us can't. There is no guarantee, if it done by humans, there can be a mistake. While all the "mistake" so far are claimed to be little mistakes, it like the expert said on 60 minutes, enough little mistake will add up to a serious problem for the future generations.

  • teleman60 Mar 27, 2012

    I would bet that there was some threats of prosecution of a certain governor for certain campaign flights if he/she didn't go along with this fracking project...

  • rlsmith5 Mar 27, 2012

    If this is so GREAT why don't the companies that are trying to get contracts signed state if there are damages to land, water, etc. that they will be responsible for these damages rather than the property owners.

  • SmokeWagon Mar 27, 2012

    ....“Due to miscommunications among staff during a period of increased workloads, DENR released a conclusion that was premature..."

    LOL.....ONLY government employees can issue a "statement" like this and blame their "workload"...ever seen the "workload" of a government employee...????????????? Laughable....!!!!

  • SecondChanceMan Mar 27, 2012

    "At this point DENR does not have enough information to conclude wh
    ether hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in North Carolina,”

    Hmmmm... Didn't WRAL report that Bev came back from a meeting with these Fracking (fav expletive here), and declared that Fracking was safe and right for NC? What a load of BS.. now this BS story.... Well, I know better. All you have to do is rub two of your braincells together to get your answer...