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Wednesday, 13 August 2014 14:53

Franklin, Forest Hills pass fracking resolutions

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Two more local governments in Western North Carolina have passed resolutions opposing fracking this month. Franklin and Forest Hills are the most recent to formally oppose the natural gas exploration method green-lighted by state legislators earlier this year.

“This whole thing about fracking just doesn’t smell right,” said Franklin Mayor Bob Scott. 

Scott authored Franklin’s resolution, borrowing from resolutions passed by other local governments such a Webster, Sylva and Swain County. The town board passed the resolution unanimously — “there were no questions from anyone” — in front of a full house. 

“That’s the first time of my 10 years of being on the board and my six months being mayor that I’ve had people come and give us a standing ovation,” Scott said. “It was very heartfelt. People do not want fracking.”

Scott said that he decided to propose the resolution because he disagrees with aspects of this year’s state law that allows for hydraulic fracturing. In particular, the mayor doesn’t care for the fact that state legislators have barred local government from prohibiting fracking. 

“I really got upset with the General Assembly,” Scott said.

Forest Hills passed its fracking resolution on a 3-2 vote. Mayor Kolleen Begley broke the tie on the town board. 

“I heard from several of our own residents that they would like to see this resolution passed. One of those residents showed up at the meeting to speak to the board asking them to pass it. I didn’t hear from anyone in the public asking this not be passed,” Begley explained. “In this case, I felt it important to join the communities who have chosen to err on the side of caution. As written throughout and summarized at the end of the resolution, none of this is worded to be ‘against’ natural gas, but rather ‘for’ further investigating valid concerns of the adverse effects of the extracting process.”

Critics of hydraulic fracturing contend that the process is environmentally risky, citing issues such as groundwater contamination. Proponents point to improved technologies and argue that the method — which involves pumping water and chemical into the ground in order to push natural gas out — is safe.

State geologists will be testing areas on Western North Carolina in order to determine if fracking would be fruitful in the region. It is suspected that the western portion of the state will not be particularly attractive to the natural gas industry. 

That doesn’t matter to Franklin’s mayor. He’s glad the town got on the record — “I’m very proud of this board for standing up and supporting this” — and doesn’t like even the slim chance of fracking in the area.

“Even if it’s a tiny percent of a possibility that it’s here and fracking were to come in here,” Scott said, “I just don’t see where it’d be any good for Western North Carolina.”

Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor recently brought up the issue of fracking at a town board meeting. While the mayor will be writing a letter to the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission, the town is not inclined to pass a resolution formally taking a position on fracking. 

“Because quite frankly it doesn’t mean anything,” said Highlands Town Manager Bob Frye. “We can’t stop it from happening.”

That doesn’t bother Bryson City Mayor Tom Sutton.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t put our opinion on record,” Sutton said. “Sitting there and not saying anything means you kind of agree.”

The Bryson City town board has previously discussed passing a fracking resolution and plans to consider such a measure during its Aug. 18 meeting. 

“We’re concerned about its impact on water quality. We have a resolution being smoothed out right now,” Sutton said.

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