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State panel says gas wells shouldn't be too close to homes

Posted September 13, 2013

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— A state panel recommended Friday that natural gas wells be at least 500 feet from the nearest occupied home, business or school – a distance far greater than allowed in many other states.

The panel includes representatives of North Carolina's energy industry, state and local governments, environmental groups, scientists and landowners. Its recommendation must still be approved by the Mining and Energy Commission, which is drafting regulations for gas drilling in the state.

"Mainly, we were looking at what the other states have done and really just professional judgment – what we think was right," said Paul Sherman, air and energy programs director with the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

Ohio requires gas wells to be at least 150 feet from the closest building. In Virginia, the limit is 200 feet. It's 350 feet in Wyoming, 500 feet in both Pennsylvania and Colorado and 625 feet in West Virginia.

However, other states generally measure from the wellhead to the occupied building. The recommendation for North Carolina is to measure from the outer boundary of the drilling site to the nearest building.

"If we find out later that's not enough, then we need to be ready to come back and revisit that," said David Kelly, a program associate with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Gas well, fracking Other states allow gas wells closer to homes, businesses

Energy companies have identified underground shale deposits across central North Carolina and plan to use a drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to extract natural gas. The process involves drilling horizontally into the shale and using a high-pressure mix of water, chemicals and sand to break apart the rock and release the trapped gas.

Martha Girolami, who lives in Chatham County, one of the projected hotbeds for fracking, said 500 feet is still too close to her home for a gas well.

"If you look at the literature right now, they're finding very significant impacts on people, especially the elderly, COPD patients, pregnant women, young children," Girolami said.

Environmental groups, which have fought opening North Carolina up to fracking, argue that gas drilling has led to contaminated water and toxic air emissions in other states.

The Mining and Energy Commission has an October 2014 deadline to devise regulations, which would then need to be approved by state lawmakers before any drilling permits could be issued.

8 Comments

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  • cruzinlong Sep 16, 2013

    500 feet is entirely to close .
    If anyone wants to see one of these drilling operations in action you can go to you tube and see how enormous , loud and brightly lit they are.
    After that, step 500 feet from your home and think hard about how having a HUGE industrial site that close to your home would affect your quality of living.
    There's many other things that go on with this type of operation such as roads being dozed across people's property, pipelines running across it, trees being cut down and lots a acreage being cleared for this ....lots of truck traffic in/out 24 hours a day too.
    Just not right to home/land owners who only own their surface & not their mineral rights, they will suffer greatly and on top of it, their property will become virtually worthless.

  • for the people Sep 16, 2013

    timexliving, stymieindurham

    would you want a gas well and its entire operation 500 feet from your house? its a yes or no question.

  • wlbbjb Sep 13, 2013

    What would that do to a house foundation? Just Asking.

  • Ex-Republican Sep 13, 2013

    "Just the environmental radical extremists."

    I'll add to that. The enviro-Mental wackos whose policies are stifling our economy and preventing job creation.

  • stymieindurham Sep 13, 2013

    "Maybe you should learn a little about the EDF before you disparage it. Or do you hate any group with 'environment' in it?"
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    Just the environmental radical extremists.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Sep 13, 2013

    Oh that's just great!

    You can explode an underground cocktail if hundreds of chemicals (some of them radioactive) with a force powerful enough to cause measurable earthquakes - as long as you're 500 feet away!

    500 feet - that's a little more than the length of a football field!

    The legislators supporting fracking, and the people who loyally support them for trying to legalize it are absolutely certifiable!

  • cookie998 Sep 13, 2013

    Maybe you should learn a little about the EDF before you disparage it. Or do you hate any group with 'environment' in it?

  • stymieindurham Sep 13, 2013

    "Environmental Defense Fund"
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    I'm OK with 500'. But, I'm not OK with ANY decisions this group has a hand in.