The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 5th

NC General Assembly to debate fracking bill

Along with tuition increases and UNC workers’ rights, yet another controversial topic will be discussed on the N.C. General Assembly floor in May — hydraulic fracturing.

A five-member N.C. Senate energy committee passed a bill last week that would allow for the natural gas obtaining method, known as fracking, in the state by 2014.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly will likely pass the bill in the legislature’s short session that starts May 16.

Sen. Harris Blake, R-Harnett, and a member of the committee, said he began to support fracking after visiting Pennsylvania — a state that utilizes the natural-gas obtaining process.

“In Pennsylvania they protect the water very well,” Blake said. “Natural gas is the cleanest energy we have.”

According to a report by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, fracking can be done safely if the right protections are in place.

The N.C. Senate bill, called the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act, would create an oil and gas regulatory program in the state.

The regulations would include prohibition of certain chemicals and regulations regarding the spacing of wells and drill sites.

But concerns have still been raised about the potential contamination of groundwater, air pollution and toxic air emissions.

Kinnaird said she opposes the bill because there are no comprehensive studies on the long-term effects of fracking on the environment.

“Republicans in the Senate are forging ahead without regard to the environment or people.”

Kinnaird instead supports delaying fracking until more information about the effects of the process is found.

Clean Water for North Carolina, a Durham-based nonprofit, also opposes the bill because of fracking’s potential environmental risks.

Hope Taylor, executive director of the organization, said there is no evidence that the state has enough natural gas to make fracking worth the environmental risks.

Jim Simons, director of land resources for the N.C. Geological Survey, said 58,000 acres of land are under exploration for natural gas potential in the state, but a more exact estimate will hopefully follow in the next two months.

Fracking in North Carolina could create 387 jobs annually in a seven-year period, according to the report by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“It’s laughable how small the job creation is,” Taylor said adding that corporations would benefit while N.C. residents would suffer.

The department also found that N.C. vendors would only provide 36 percent of drilling investments.

“Our legislators see this as a mechanism to bring in an industry that provides campaign support for legislators,” Taylor said.

“It’s a way to fund a long term agenda that is a socially regressive.”

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