Local News

Chapel Hill weighs anti-fracking stance

Posted March 23, 2012 2:26 p.m. EDT

— One day before state regulators hold a public hearing in Chapel Hill on natural gas exploration in central North Carolina, the Chapel Hill Town Council plans to discuss Monday taking a stance against a controversial drilling method.

The council is expected to vote on a resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing in the region because of risks posed to Jordan Lake.

The process, also known as "fracking," involves 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.

The draft resolution notes that Jordan Lake serves as an "insurance policy" for area water needs during droughts and that fracking, which requires millions of gallons of water, could exacerbate the water shortages the region has seen in recent years during prolonged dry spells.

The resolution also notes that there are no viable options to dispose of the wastewater produced by fracking and that area treatment plants aren't equipped to handle it.

Other area towns, including Creedmoor, have gone beyond resolutions in recent months and adopted ordinances in an effort to keep out gas wells.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a draft report last week saying that regulators believe fracking can be done safely in North Carolina if proper safeguards are put in place first. Those include collecting baseline data for water and air quality, setting setback requirements around drill sites and standards for waste disposal and requiring full disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process.

DENR is expected to hand its final report over to state lawmakers in May. Agency officials plan to hear from area residents Tuesday night in Chapel Hill.