Local News

NC towns look to head off 'fracking'

Posted January 4, 2012 6:06 p.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2012 7:13 p.m. EST

— As state officials study the impact of oil and natural gas exploration in North Carolina, some area cities and towns are adopting ordinances to get ahead of the issue.

The Creedmoor City Council recently unanimously passed an ordinance to ban a controversial method of gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing within the city limits, and Cary is considering a similar measure.

The drilling, which also is referred to as "fracking," involves pumping a mix of water and chemicals into a drilled well to break apart deposits of underground shale and release natural gas.

Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss said Wednesday that he and other council members are concerned about water contamination from fracking. Some homeowners in Pennsylvania, where gas wells are common, have seen increasing levels of methane in their well water.

"We wanted to get out in front on this particular issue and let our local legislators know this is not something we want for our community," Moss said.

Because Creedmoor sits at the headwaters of Falls Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water for Raleigh and several Wake County towns, he said the town needs to take steps to ensure that reservoir is protected.

City officials also are concerned about heavy trucks tearing up Creedmoor's streets and a drop in nearby property values, Moss said.

"Our roads are already strained now and this will add more stress than is needed,” he said.

Each well brings an increase in truck traffic, as drilling equipment, water, sand and chemicals are brought in and gas is piped out.

Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he doesn't think gas drilling would impact drinking water in the town, but it could affect residents who use well water. The Town Council asked staff last month to look at the pros and cons of fracking and report back.

Moss acknowledged that the ordinance is primarily symbolic, since any state law allowing fracking would trump local regulations.

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 709 in June, which asks state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to study oil and gas exploration in North Carolina.

Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed the measure. The Senate voted to override the veto, but the House hasn't yet taken up the measure.

Moss said cities and towns hold the power to allow or not allow companies to locate within their boundaries.

"We can control the above-ground infrastructure in our community from a zoning perspective," he said, noting the Creedmoor City Council would likely deny the needed permits for a gas company to operate in town.

"We are responsible locally for our citizens' quality of life," he said.