I have two gut feelings I want to share dealing with fracking in N.C.: fear and hope.
I fear that with the legislature in session, the preliminary report of 120 items by the Mining and Energy Commission will be changed to be more favorable to industry. This already shows up in the Senate as a bill dubbed the Energy Modernization Act.
I fear that the preliminary report will be accepted as amended, that the public meetings to have been held this summer will not occur, and that the October deadline for the final report (actually the commission indicated it would need until January) will not be honored. The Senate would dismiss the current commission and make it smaller, and the legislature would nominate most of the members. I fear that this could lead drilling to begin next spring, basically without due process, as initially set forth by this same legislature.
I hope that as potential drilling companies realize how complex the geology is within the Sanford Sub-Basin – with the multitude of faults and injected igneous dikes and the escape routes that both natural gas and toxic drilling waters have to get to the surface and into drinking water wells – that the risks are not acceptable.
I hope it is noteworthy that there are no permeable rock layers in which to inject the toxic waters used in drilling, neither in the Triassic basin, nor in the adjacent Piedmont. The possible sedimentary beds exist only in the Coastal Plain area, and these aquifers serve as major water sources. The tourist trade must be considered.
I hope the price of natural gas remains so low that drilling will not pay. And, if the natural gas is mainly methane, it is not as valuable as natural gas. I hope it is realized that the amount of retrievable natural gas is really unknown and that predictions are always on the high end.
I hope it is realized that there are thousands of square acres of black shales in formations that are hundreds to thousands of feet thick in many states and that future resources are being exploited now. Our Cumnock Formation is tiny in volume and would not sustain years and years of production.
I hope companies realize that the infrastructure of roads and pipelines is not available, nor are nearby water sources to mix with the toxic chemicals. I hope companies realize that the EPA is about to study whether the ingredients of toxic drilling waters should be made public.
I hope that other early on-the-spot drilling companies will not renew leases as has at least one company. I hope that the 120 items on the commission report will stall leasing agreements in the future.
If I were the CEO or a board member of a gas or oil company, I hope I would not allow funds to be used in the Triassic Sanford Sub-Basin of North Carolina.
Daniel A. Textoris, Emeritus professor of geology, UNC-CH,
0The length limit was waived.