As of right now, fracking in North Carolina is Legal-Environmental Review Commission will be the governing body overseeing this process if it ever actually begins in our state. It is our hope that it never does. For those of you not completely familiar with the term Fracking- the process involves shooting water, chemicals (some of these are both toxic and dangerous) and sand through drilling technology penetrating through rock in order to free up and release natural gas reserves under the rock.
Emotions are high in regards to this issue here in Western North Carolina. This region of the state is known for its ecological bent and good stewardship of the land. In Eastern North Carolina in the 1980’s and 1990’s when that part of our state gained notoriety for hog farms it is felt by most that little research was done regarding the land and water impact the pursuit of this industry would create. Whatever your feelings about Fracking, I think all of us could agree that before the first drill touches the surface of our land we might all benefit from some suggestions made by Duke researchers as follows:
1. Get baseline data right now on both the air quality and also water quality to enable accurate comparisons should this practice actually begin in earnest.
2. Use zoning setbacks to offer some protection to those whose property borders fracking zones.
3. Plan ahead for large water withdrawals (5 million gallons could be needed for just one well) and depositories for spent waste water water.
4. Require complete and full disclosure on all chemicals used in these these drilling procedures. Armed with this criteria it is believed that more care will be dedicated to choosing these chemicals. Further, it will be easier to fully investigate any problems that crop up believed to be connected to their use.
5. Determine ahead of time civil penalties for infractions or safety violations of any kind.
6. Create and avail the public of a website contact with information, reporting functions etc.
7. Insist on a fee for each well drilled. This sets aside funds that could be available for any problems that occur.
As citizens, I encourage all of you to become informed on this process, particularly if it is being discussed in your home state. Study its effects in other parts of the country where it is already in practice. There is much data we can access to become informed. Do it now while you can still make your voice heard. Delay could be a bit like warning the lamb that you let the wolf out of the barn after you hear it screaming.