By Brian Sewell
The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission held public hearings in August and September on the proposed rules it has put forth to regulate fracking in the state. At each of the four hearings held across the state, North Carolinians overwhelmingly expressed concerns with the rules’ shortcomings and the state’s rush to begin fracking.
In oral comments, hundreds of citizens requested improvements to the more than 120 rules proposed by the MEC related to everything from inspection protocols, chemical disclosure, monitoring and reporting requirements and more. The MEC also accepted written comments from the public between July 15 and Sept. 30.
“We can live without shale gas but not without clean air and water,” said Christine Carlson, who spoke at the Raleigh hearing.
Although the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently postponed plans to explore the natural gas potential of seven western North Carolina counties, the turnout to the final hearing in Cullowhee was comparable to those held in the Piedmont, where fracking permits could be issued as soon as spring 2015. Nearly 600 people packed the hearing in the mountains and 102 people signed up to speak for three minutes each.
A video and multiple reports following the hearing indicated that, of the handful of fracking supporters present, several were entirely unfamiliar with the practice. They were given pro-fracking t-shirts by a group affiliated with the American Petroleum Institute and were bussed to the hearing from Winston-Salem, N.C. One man, who identified himself to The Sylva Herald as a veteran staying at the Bethesda Center For The Homeless, said he felt misled and was told fracking would help the environment.
The MEC plans to submit final rules to the state’s Rules Review Commission by Nov. 20.