By Brian Sewell
A series of public hearings in March concluded that, with proper regulation, hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling method can be done safely in North Carolina.
The hearings, held in Sanford, Chapel Hill and Pittsboro, received public comment on a draft report of the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ shale gas study.
Large crowds turned out in opposition to the practice, known widely as “fracking,” citing social concerns and threats to human and environmental health documented in states where the practice currently occurs. Supporters of the method claimed that fracking would create jobs, further the state’s energy independence and provide economic benefits for landowners who own property above the shale gas deposits of the Sanford sub-basin, located in the Piedmont region of the state.
By looking at other states where fracking occurs, the DENR report investigated the risks associated with fracking and possible economic benefits that could come from the practice, which is currently illegal in North Carolina. The study found that some risks are more prevalent in the Tarheel state. The distance between natural gas deposits and underground aquifers in North Carolina is significantly less than in Central Appalachia’s Marcellus Shale, presenting an increased threat to water quality. Also, the state does not have suitable geologic formations for underground disposal of wastewater created during the drilling process. Instead, it would have to be stored in above-ground pits or transported by road.
Despite the risks involved, the draft report concluded that fracking can be done safely in the state and provided initial recommendations, including that state officials record baseline air, ground and surface water data to use for future monitoring on how fracking impacts future air and water quality. The study also advises that the state require gas companies to fully disclose chemicals used during the process to regulatory agencies and to the public, a measure not required in other states. Funding sources for damage to roads and highways from the increase in large truck traffic would also need to be determined due to North Carolina’s lack of pipeline infrastructure found in states with developed oil and gas industries.
At this stage, the report says, economic benefits to the state and individuals from fracking are difficult to determine. However, because North Carolina does not currently have a natural gas extraction industry, a large portion of the jobs and specialized equipment needed would come from out-of-state. Due to low prices and high production in the Marcellus Shale and Western states, development of a natural gas industry in North Carolina seems unlikely in the near future. The Energy Information Administration predicts that natural gas prices will remain below $5 per thousand cubic feet through 2023, making it less likely that the industry will move from productive areas.
Feedback received during the hearings will be incorporated into the final report due to the state legislature May 1.
N.C. Attorney General Appeals Dukes Energy Rate Hike
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is appealing a seven percent rate increase for Duke Energy customers that was approved in January. Cooper cited concerns that the rate hike will give Duke shareholders a 10.5 percent return on their investment at the expense of customers struggling in a bad economy. The appeal claims that the N.C. Utilities Commission’s decision to approve the increase was not supported by evidence presented during public hearings and that testimony supporting the increase did not consider the impacts on small businesses, schools and consumers with fixed incomes. Duke Energy initially requested a 17 percent increase that was reduced by the utilities commission before the seven percent increase was approved.
Mild Winter Could Result in Disease Uptick
Health reports predict that 2012 might be one of the worst-ever years for Lyme disease. There are more than 40,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. each year, and with this year’s warmer winter boosting the tick population, those numbers could increase. Here are some tips to keep your family and pets safe this summer:
The Yard: Ticks are not out in the middle of your lawn, they live where yards border wooded areas, or anywhere it is shaded and there are leaves with high humidity. Place a layer of wood chips between your grass yard and the forest’s edge. Ticks are attracted to the wood chips because of the shade and moisture they provide.
Tick Checks: Do periodic tick checks and carefully remove any found. Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to find.
Outdoor Pursuits: When on a hike, bike, or walk try to remain in the center of a trail to minimize your exposure.
For more information on tick control and Lyme disease, visit: cdc.gov/ticks.
Getting Dirty With The ‘Red, White and Blue Potato Garden’
Bristol Virginia Public Schools recently approved a pilot program to help first-graders learn the importance of education, nutrition and exercise. In the “Red, White and Blue Potato Garden,” built by the Appalachian Sustainable Development Learning Landscapes program, each first-grade student receives a Potato Journal to record their findings as they describe, weigh and plant a potato in the school garden, and then harvest the potatoes in their second-grade year. ASD now has eight Learning Landscapes garden models to teach different subjects in a curriculum built for students from kindergarten to 12th grade. For more information about the “Red, White and Blue Potato Garden” visit: asdevelop.org
Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
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