State officials will be able to accommodate up to 800 people tonight for a public hearing in Sanford to discuss whether fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas, should be allowed in this state.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will likely limit public comments to several minutes so that the hearing can be concluded within the allotted three hours.
Even so, fewer than 100 people will be able to speak. And given the agency’s time constraints, there will be no opportunity for the public to ask questions of the agency’s staff.
“If we were to have questions and answers, we’d probably be there for three weeks,” said DENR spokeswoman Diana Kees. “This is an opportunity for us to hear from the public.”
DENR issued a draft report last week saying that horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, can be done responsibly as long as the right safeguards are put in place.
The agency will hold a second public hearing next week at East Chapel Hill High School to hear from area residents. The public comments will be incorporated into the draft report, which will be completed and submitted to the state legislature by May 1.
The first 15 or 20 minutes of each public meeting will be dedicated to a summary of the agency’s report and recommendations.
Tonight’s hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, 1801 Nash Street in Sanford.
Staff writer John Murawski