The state's study of the pros and cons of "fracking" will not merely be a neutral exercise in fact-gathering. In response to public demand, the study will pick a side - either for or against the controversial method of exploring natural gas.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced the expanded scope of the study Tuesday, several months into conducting research. The likely outcome will be that the study will be dismissed as biased by whoever disagrees with its conclusions.
The agency is conducting the study for the state legislature to help lawmakers determine whether they should legalize fracking in this state. The study is expected to be ready by May 1, in time for the 2012 legislative session.
Fracking refers to the hydraulic fracturing technology used to release gas trapped in prehistoric shale rock formations underground. It is used in conjunction with horizontal drilling, a practice that's also not allowed in North Carolina.
Diana Kees, a spokeswoman for DENR, said Tuesday's announcement merely clarifies the intent of the study.
"We wanted to assure the public that we are going to address these things in the study," she said.