Point of View

An unrelenting focus on fracking

July 16, 2012 

People in North Carolina who care about clean water, healthy communities and democratic process were outraged and deeply disappointed over the legislative outcome for the “fracking bill,” Senate Bill 820.

We applaud Gov. Beverly Perdue for standing up for the people of North Carolina when she vetoed this bill. House Speaker Thom Tillis and the bill’s proponents used a voting error and vote “trading” to enact a law that is harmful to North Carolina’s people, water and economy.

The bill does not protect drinking water, landowner’s rights, county and municipal governments’ interests, and the health and safety of our families, and it specifically overturns long-standing groundwater protections.

We applaud those legislators who voted to sustain the veto and to protect and defend clean water, air and land, and healthy communities. They understand that a vibrant and healthy future for North Carolina depends on decisions based on facts and science, not ideology.

The proponents of the fracking bill falsely promoted it as a major jobs creator. The average annual number estimated by the state of 387 new jobs for fracking is not major. Rather than promoting an energy policy that would have brought new jobs to North Carolina through energy efficiency and conservation and solar and wind power, the legislature pursued the same old policies that put money in the hands of the fossil fuel industries. Shame on them for being so shortsighted about North Carolina’s energy future.

Instead of bringing jobs, this legislation spells trouble for North Carolina. Both the new industry-dominated commission that is being appointed and the lack of resources that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources now has for crafting new regulations do not give us confidence that this state can do fracking “right.”

Fracking in North Carolina may also introduce pressure to allow deep waste injection wells for the polluted frack wastewater that could be placed anywhere, threatening groundwater and seismic stability over an even larger area of the state.

Under this legislation, “forced pooling,” which removes the basic right of individual land owners to determine how their properties will be used, is retained from decades-old laws. Our communities and local governments are stripped of the right to protect local water, air, farmland, wildlife and citizen health.

With fracking, North Carolina now faces threats of possible earthquakes in the vicinity of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant, water contamination, air pollution, devalued property and a range of environmental injustices affecting our most vulnerable populations and industrialized landscapes. Our politicians pushed these risks in exchange for limited short-term fracking jobs and the temptation of industry money to fund campaigns.

The past few weeks of heat and drought should remind us all that we depend on water. As water supplies dwindle across the country, it makes no sense to intentionally contaminate millions of gallons of clean water every time each well is fracked. Instead of conserving and protecting our water, the legislation just rushed into law decreases our water supplies and risks making it unusable for generations.

The huge groundswell of public objections to fracking in North Carolina will not go away. Thousands of people spoke against fracking at the DENR hearings in March and turned out to rallies and meetings and to lobby their legislators in Raleigh. Over 45,000 people contacted the governor asking her to keep North Carolina free of fracking. Numerous towns and cities in the targeted fracking zone have passed resolutions against fracking and for local control.

These citizens will not give up this battle and go away, and neither will we. A diverse alliance of statewide organizations and grassroots groups who work for environmental justice, for healthy food and farms and for clean water, air and energy came together to try to keep North Carolina frack-free. We will be watchdogs on the rulemaking process and continue to reach out to communities with the latest science and information on fracking and what other states are experiencing.

We are determined to keep North Carolina’s waters, land and people safe from fracking’s injustices and destructive practices.

Elaine Chiosso is the Haw Riverkeeper for the Haw River Assembly.

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