While you were looking the other way

To the Editor:

With the business of making a living that each of us has to address in any given day, we would expect those who represent us in the North Carolina Legislature — whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars — to be concerned  with our overall health and safety without our having to worry about the issue. Well, take a closer look.

Senate Bill 786, which opens the door to fracking — oil and natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing methods — in North Carolina, recently went through the N.C. Senate like a greased pig. It is titled Energy Modernization Act (2014), simply a smokescreen for eliminating or weakening the health and safety regulations associated with this intrusive mining process. Our senator, Jim Davis (R-Franklin), is one of the original sponsors of this legislation (as SB-76). Among other changes, this legislation would:

• Shroud in secrecy the chemicals used in the fracking operation, making it a crime to disclose their identity (§113-391A), greatly hampering medical or remedial action in case of groundwater contamination, which has been a recurring problem with fracking operations in other states.

• It is presumed that groundwater contamination can only occur within 2,640 ft of a fracking well-head (§113-421), yet by its very nature, tunneling and fracturing — involving the proprietary chemicals used — move significant distances from the well-head in a horizontal direction.

• Ordinances prohibiting fracking made by any county, city or other political subdivision would become invalid under this new law (§113-415A), overriding the will of the people who originally enacted them.

• Oil and gas prospectors may not be held liable for trespass on your property as long as they collect exploratory data by seismic undershooting from an off-site location (§113-395D).

• Any tax on the extraction of oil and gas by fracking shall go to the state of North Carolina, and not to the benefit of the county, city or political subdivision where the resource was extracted (§105-187).

• The Department of Commerce, in conjunction with other state agencies, is authorized to study the feasibility of constructing a liquid natural gas export terminal in North Carolina (Section 22.a). Foreign exporting?

This bill, shortly to be voted on by the North Carolina House, is based largely on the model of the oil and gas industry itself, failing to address proper disposal of the secret fracking chemicals (supplied by energy behemoth Halliburton), protection of land and water after active fracking has ceased, or safe methods of transporting the resources after extraction.

Our mountain area has been mentioned as one of the “most promising” (industry term) areas of North Carolina for oil and gas shale extraction. As we are all aware, the quality of our mountain water is superb and the rest of the Southeast depends on us as their source of such, not to mention our own needs.

If you are tired of seeing our elected representatives concentrate on profit rather than the health and safety of the folks they represent, let them know that fracking has no place in North Carolina. They expect to start issuing fracking permits in July. Call today, while they are still in Raleigh for the short session, and tell them to vote no on SB 786. 

Doug Woodward 


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