State News

Lee officials want say as NC drafts drilling rules

Posted November 2, 2012 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2012 1:58 p.m. EDT

— Members of a panel directed by the legislature to develop regulations that would allow for expanded North Carolina inland energy exploration are still developing their plan to complete their tasks.

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission held its third meeting for Friday at a state building in downtown Raleigh.

The group elected George Howard as vice chairman after deadlocking last month on a choice between Howard, president of Restoration Systems, which restores wetlands and sells "mitigation credits" to companies doing construction elsewhere, and Raleigh attorney Charlotte Mitchell.

Lee County commissioner Jim Womack was elected panel chairman last month. Some environmental groups have expressed concerns about Womack's support for fracking.

The former state mining commission was reconstituted last summer to address potential natural has exploration methods such as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The controversial process involves drilling horizontally through underground deposits of shale and pumping a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals into the well to break apart the rock and release trapped gas.

Brooks Gage, a member of the Lee County Environmental Affairs Board, said she hopes Lee County officials will have a say as the commission draws up drilling rules. The county is seen as the epicenter of gas deposits in North Carolina.

"We're trying to take a more scientific view and see how this can be done and provide much-needed jobs for Lee County and maximize obtaining natural gas," said Gage, who attended the state commission's meeting.

Lawmakers want new regulations in place by October 2014. The legislature would have to act again before permits could be granted.