By Brian Sewell
The debate surrounding the controversial method of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas shows no signs of slowing down.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently submitted a final report in its shale gas study to the state general assembly. The report highlights the importance of establishing a strong regulatory framework before the state explores and extracts natural gas from the Sanford sub-basin deposits found throughout the Piedmont counties.
Some groups praised the DENR report’s reticence to endorse the practice outright. The state general assembly, however, is not required to take DENR’s recommendations. Before the final report was submitted, a state Senate panel approved a bill that would fast-track the elimination of the state’s current prohibitions on horizontal drilling.
Recently, a growing litany of researchers and impacted residents have voiced concerns of fracking’s impact on air and water quality, and its effects on human health. At the beginning of May, a peer-reviewed study commissioned by New York’s Catskill Mountainkeeper found that chemicals used in fracking can migrate to groundwater over the course of several years, contradicting the claims by the gas industry that these toxic chemicals stay underground forever.
Additionally, a Natural Resources Defense Council report conducted in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale concluded that all available options for dealing with contaminated wastewater from fracking are inadequate to protect human health and the environment. Yet, a rule proposed in May by the U.S. Department of Interior that would govern fracking on public lands does not require gas companies to disclose the chemicals used in the injection fluid — an ongoing hindrance to scientific research and the ability of communities to test for fracking-related water pollution.
In April, the Obama administration announced a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior to ensure that continued expansion of natural gas occurs safely with science playing a guiding and critical role.