In mid-February, state lawmakers introduced House Bill 76 (and its twin, Senate Bill 72), “Disapprove MEC Oil and Gas Rules,” formally recognizing that the rules on hydraulic fracturing approved by the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) are woefully inadequate to protect NC’s environment and communities. The sponsors of the House bill include Representatives Robert Reives II and Brad Salmon of Lee County, where fracking is most likely to begin, as well as Representatives Susan Fisher and Pricey Harrison. These lawmakers understand that the MEC rules are lacking in safe setback distances from homes and water sources, environmental testing, and disposal of fracking wastewater, and that allowing fracking to begin with such weak rules in place would endanger the people and resources of our state.
While the sponsors of H76 acknowledge that the odds of the bill passing are small, they felt it was important to file this legislation as a statement that the MEC has not served the best interests of the residents of Lee and Chatham Counties or other areas that could be impacted by fracking. You can contact the Chairmen of the House Commerce and Jobs Committee to tell them you and many friends in your area believe there’s strong evidence that fracking is bad for NC’s communities and economy, and encourage them to schedule a hearing on the bill soon: Rep. Conrad, Rep. Presnell and Rep. Ross.
If your NC Representative or Senator is among the sponsors of House Bill 76 (list of sponsors) or Senate Bill 72 (list of sponsors), we encourage you to send them a short email to thank them for their action to protect NC from fracking!
Here’s a link to coverage in the Sanford Herald at the time the bills were filed.
Frack Free NC Alliance partners came out despite the cold on Saturday, February 14, joining many other folks to call for Environmental Justice, Economic Justice, Voting Rights, Health Justice and more! Here are a few photos of creative signs tying our environmental passions to the wider social justice and democracy that we seek. (Photo credits: Karen Bearden and Martha Girolami).
Click each photo to see the full-size image!
Historic Thousands on Jones St. (“HKonJ”) 2015
Saturday, February 14, Raleigh
Meet at 9AM across from Raleigh Memorial Auditorium on South St.
March begins at 10 AM, Rally will be near the State Capital on Fayetteville St.
Environmental/Justice/Labor contingent –meet at 8:45AM (note earlier time) at the corner of Wilmington St. & Cabarrus St. Wear blue, green and/or yellow.
Forward together – not one step back! Frack Free NC partners will join in the 9th annual HKonJ mass rally this February.
Many Frack Free NC partners already plan to join with the NAACP of NC, more than a hundred “HKonJ” partner groups, and tens of thousands of other folks from across the state on Saturday, Feb. 14 to call for Environmental Justice, Economic Justice, Voting Rights, Health Justice and more. We hope you will join us, too!
Dress warmly, bring friends, and, if you can, carry signs that tie our environmental passions to the wider social justice and democracy that we seek. More information will be posted on this site soon, or visit http://www.hkonj.com.
Buses are leaving from multiple NC locations - click here to find one near you!
View a short video about marching for environmental justice!
Sally Morgan, CWFNC Energy and Environmental Justice Researcher/Organizer
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is at odds with the Mining and Energy Commission, but not over fracking. NCDOT says it wants to work with the industry to ensure that NC’s transportation infrastructure can “serve the industry’s needs.” What they disagree about is how to make sure the industry pays for resulting road repair costs. And with 1,600 truck trips estimated for a single fracked well, damage to roads is no trivial matter.
If fracking comes to North Carolina, much of it would occur in rural areas, where roads are not designed to support heavy industrial trucks. In states where fracking is rampant, the cost of road repair often outweighs state income from fracking, in some cases by billions of dollars. According to reviews of state records by the Energy Policy Forum, Pennsylvania collected $204 million in impact fees in 2012 (they don’t have a severance tax), but road damage topped $3.5 billion! Since 2009, Arkansas received $182 million in gas severance taxes, but estimates road damage cost $450 million.
The NCDOT studied Plank Road in western Lee County, with a bridge crossing the Deep River, as a likely route for fracking trucks. This bridge alone needs $1.3 million in upgrades to handle heavy trucks. Who should pay for this? The NCDOT is funded largely from state taxes on gasoline, vehicle registration fees and the like. It’s essential that the road repair costs be paid for by the industry causing the damage, and reaping any profit. One option to recoup the costs is through “severance taxes” (percent of proceeds) on the gas extracted. However, between the small estimates of recoverable gas, and the delay in production (likely several years after initial well pad construction), NCDOT ruled this option out. NC state severance tax rates are among the lowest in the nation, and it’s unlikely they will be raised. Most other states have shown that severance taxes aren’t enough to cover road damage from fracking operations, and have had to implement additional “road use agreements” with industry.
The NCDOT is proposing another option to ensure the industry pays for most road repairs, and returns the roads to original condition after use. A “Road Management Use Agreement” (RUMA), holds the industry responsible for maintaining designated haul routes, and for posting a bond amount that is 60% of the average expected costs for repair. NCDOT studied options for two years, including other states’ approaches, and concluded that the RUMA is by far the best available approach. Unfortunately, despite inclusion of the RUMA in early drafts of the MEC’s fracking rules, this recommendation was left out of the final rules submitted to the legislature. Now the NCDOT has to ask the legislature for authority to request a RUMA.
We know the people of North Carolina should not have to pay for costs resulting from the fracking industry; but with the meager protections proposed by the Mining and Energy Commission, that appears to be a likely risk. The public cost of road damage compared to the paltry state revenue from our small gas reserves raises yet another question among a host of others, about the economic feasibility of fracking in NC.
The EPA’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” creates emission guidelines for states that address greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The goal is to lower emissions of carbon dioxide, and thus reduce the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the proposed Clean Power Plan has some serious flaws that may make it do more harm than good when it comes to the climate, and actually serve to incentivize fracking.
The EPA is accepting comments on the Clean Power Plan through December 1st . Click here to see Clean Water for NC’s comments, and feel free to borrow from them! While it’s critical to express our support for the intent of the rules, they need to be more effective to prevent climate change and to prevent incentivising fracking for natural gas.
To comment on the rule, send by email by Dec. 1 to:
A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov. Include docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 in the subject line of the message
Appalachian Voices ~ Chatham Research Group ~ Clay County Coalition Against Fracking ~ Clean Air Carolina ~ Clean Water for NC ~ Coalition Against Fracking in Western NC ~EnvironmentaLEE ~ Haw RiverKeeper ~ Pee Dee W.A.L.L. ~ RiverGuardian Foundation ~ Western NC Alliance ~ TriangleWILPF ~ Yadkin and Davie Against Fracking
November 14, 2014
Over 30 local, regional and statewide organizations are working together as Frack Free NC to prevent fracking throughout the state, and participated in large numbers in the recent public hearings on draft Oil and Gas Rules. The groups’ spokespeople say they aren’t surprised that, despite the unprecedented outpouring of 217,000public comments on the draft rules, the pro-industry dominated Mining and EnergyCommission (MEC) didn’t make major changes before voting to send them to the Rules Review Commission today. No state has regulated fracking in a way that protects air, water, land and communities, so the groups have very deep concerns about potential impacts to communities and environments near possible gas deposits under regions from Robeson County in southeastern NC to Cherokee County in the southwest.
What’s remarkable, they say, is that the Hearing Officers’ report repeatedly acknowledged the strength of public concern expressed on rules ranging from waste management, to setbacks for buildings and water supplies, chemical disclosure, enforcement and other issues, yet they recommended very minimal changes in the rules that produced the largest volume of comments. Some important detailed technical comments, such as recommendations for improved gas well construction, were scarcely mentioned in the Hearing Officers’ report and dismissed by Commissioners as “telling the industry how to suck its egg.” (Nov. 6 MEC meeting).
“Knowing that fewer than 30 people at the hearings spoke in favor of fracking and that time ran out before everyone had a chance to speak, how could any members of the MEC say they didn’t know the public cared so much? We’ve practically begged for clean water protections, air monitoring, and health studies for years,” says Lib Hutchby, of the Triangle Womens’ International League for Peace and Freedom.
One change that has been touted as important by the MEC and media is allowing unannounced inspections at gas well sites. The rules still do not require them, and don’t ensure there will be adequate staff to actually do inspections with reasonable frequency. The change simply removes two words that required gas operators to be notified before an inspection. As one commenter at the Raleigh public hearing asked, the public wouldn’t trust food prepared by a restaurant if unannounced inspections weren’t required, so why should it be acceptable for this high impact and dangerous industry to operate without requiring surprise inspections.
“This change in language to allow–but not require–unannounced inspections is not the big deal the agency and media are making it to be. It falls far short of the protections that the public expects” says Elaine Chiosso, Haw Riverkeeper. North Carolina’s Riverkeepers and other Frack Free NC allies called for strong funding and staffing of enforcement programs, frequent required inspections and allowing local law enforcement to be involved. Hundreds of commenters also said the agency must be able to issue “Stop Work Orders” but the Commission says it lacks legislative authority to do this.
The only “nod” by Commissioners to thousands of comments calling for more protective setbacks for buildings and water supplies was to increase the setback for gas extraction wells from “municipal” water supplies” using surface water only.This change leaves the customers of hundreds of small groundwater-based public water system customers in shale areas especially vulnerable. While they have the same inadequate 650 setback distance as private well owners, there is no provision for public water customers to receive direct reports on baseline or subsequent water quality testing.
Despite many Commissioners’ concerns about risks of spills and contamination from surface waste pits, in their haste to complete draft rules, the MEC decided to require a system of waste storage in tanks only if an open waste pit had failed! Now, after the great outpouring from the public calling for waste storage in tanks only, the Hearing Officers and MEC colleagues have just proposed more frequent inspections and monitoring, but say it’s too late in the game to consider prohibiting waste pits, so the Commission will just “continue to study” the issue.
Commission Chair Vic Rao and others have said these will not be the final rules and that improvements can be made in future rulemaking. But the current Mining and Energy Commission will go out of business the middle of next year, so there’s not time to enact substantial changes, even if the Commission wanted to make them. The new Oil and Gas Commission may be even more heavily weighted with pro-industry appointees.
“Seeing all of the issues not dealt with by the Commission, it’s clear that the State is nowhere near ready to issue permits for gas extraction. There’s no indication we’ll have the funding, staff or political will to regulate gas development and there’s solution for dealing with the huge volumes of toxic waste except to ship it out of state for injection,” says Hope Taylor of Clean Water for NC, a public health and drinking water advocate who served on the state’s oil and gas stakeholdergroup, whose recommendations were frequently weakened during the process. “Our bonding rules are so weak that they’re sending an invitation to irresponsible drillers. With all of the challenges of NC’s shallow shale formations, high population density, no regulatory experience and a tiny gas supply, why would we want to do this?”
The rules don’t deal with the increasingly well-documented toxic air emissions coming from gas extraction, treatment and transmission. And they don’t deal with “compulsory pooling,” a highly controversial mechanism that industry uses to gather contiguous properties into a “drilling unit,” even when landowners don’t want fracking on or under their land. “It’s clear that these rules were overwhelmingly not intended to protect the people of North Carolina but to entice the oil and gas industry,” says Denise Der Garabedian, a view shared by many in the public who know several MEC Commissioners have publicly commented that they can’t pass more protective rules as they would discourage industry from coming to NC.
The Hearing Officers for the Mining and Energy Commission have released their response to over 217,000 public comments they received on the proposed fracking rules. You can read it here: Report of Proceedings on Proposed Rules to Regulate the Management of Oil or Gas Exploration and Development.
You can also read a brief response by Grady McCallie, of NC Conservation Network, here: Response to the final fracking rule package and Hearing Officers’ Report
Help deliver over 50,000 petition signatures against fracking to Governor McCrory.
WHEN: Tuesday, October 14th, 11 AM
WHERE: Historic Capitol Building, corner of Fayetteville and Morgan Street, Downtown Raleigh
WHO: Frack Free NC Alliance, over two dozen groups from around the state
SPEAKERS: Hope Taylor, Clean Water for North Carolina
Dave Rogers, Environment North Carolina
Luke Cranford, EnvironmentalLEE
Kathy Rigsbee, Yadkin and Davie Against Fracking
Sarah Kellogg, Appalachian Voices
The natural gas pipeline system is all around us, connecting our homes, businesses, and increasingly, our power supply, to the production, processing and transportation side of the industry. But people frequently don’t understand the risks associated with the natural gas pipeline system, or what to do if a pipeline company wants to put one through your land. A new report by Clean Water for NC Natural Gas Pipelines: Regulation and Risk for North Carolina, aims at de-mystifying the pipeline system, its regulation and opportunities for involvement by potentially impacted residents and the general public.
Map of Natural Gas Pipelines in the US. Source: Energy Information Administration
In the case of the newly proposed Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, residents and affected landowners should participate in the process to the full extent possible. The report outlines steps along the way the public can take. Companies must be held responsible for protection of the public they are serving; so all regulatory, construction and route-selection processes must be transparent and include the public from the start. Belinda Joyner, Clean Water for NC’s Northeastern Organizer, based in Garysburg, near the proposed pipeline, attended one of Dominion’s “open house” sessions this week. “The Dominion staff were so eager to be reassuring about pipeline safety, compressor stations and other impacts, that it’s clear the public will need to keep digging to get forthright answers. We’ll make sure the word gets out widely before the next set of public meetings early in 2015.”
A main conclusion in the report is that during the construction of new facilities and infrastructure for natural gas, detailed environmental assessments and public input must be included in the process, in order to reduce or avoid environmental and community impacts, and increase safety through public awareness of the presence of pipelines. Where service areas have been established by a long-standing “certificates of convenience and necessity,” gas companies must be required to file plans for pipeline construction with state Utility Commission officials and notify all parties and local governments potentially impacted.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now accepting written comments on the 120 rules proposed to regulate fracking. The public comment period is open until September 30.
Send written comments to the Mining & Energy Commission:
ATTN: Oil and Gas Program
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612
or email to Oil&Gas@ncdenr.gov.
Click here to view the draft rules.
Click here for a 1 page factsheet on the draft rules.
To find key parts of the Draft Oil and Gas Rules that you might want to comment on:
Our FrackFree NC review team chose 7 draft rules of greatest interest. Click on each topic to download some brief bullet points about problems we’ve identified, or click on “Bullet points for all 7 draft rules” to see them all. We will add key problems with draft rules as our review continues, as well as key points on issues related to, but not directly dealt with, by the draft rules. As always, all comments should be in your own words. Thanks for caring enough to comment to protect our communities!
“Enforcement and Inspections”
“Set Back Distances”
“Chemical Disclosure and Trade Secrets”
“Baseline Water Supply Testing”
“Water Acquisition and Management”
“Exploration and Production Waste Management”
“Bonding and Financial Assurance”
Here are some bullet points on “Need For Air Quality Rules“, something thing the MEC’s Draft Rules completely ignores.
Bullet points for all 7 draft rules
The Mining and Energy Commission recently had 4 Public Hearings on the Draft Fracking Rules. An estimated 1800 people attended these hearings, and an overwhelming majority were opposed to fracking in NC. Around 340 delivered oral comments, many of which were thoughtful and substantial critiques of specific fracking rules. Here are some photos from the final public hearing, held in Cullowhee on September 12, 2014:
Katie Hicks, Assistant Director of Clean Water for NC, addresses the crowd at the Press Conference before the final Public Hearing on Fracking Rules, in Cullowhee, Sept. 12 2014
Amy Adams, former DENR employee and now with Appalachian Voices, speaks to the crowd at the press conference.
Greg Leading Fox ended the press conference with a traditional Ponca prayer song. Greg and his wife Susan Leading Fox have been grassroots leaders in Swain County.