Town leaders say they are concerned about regulations for shale gas exploration proposed by state agencies.
Shale gas exploration, known as fracking, is currently banned in North Carolina. But state leaders are expected to allow the practice next year after crafting regulations.
The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission recently proposed a set of rules for fracking, and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is collecting feedback from the public until Sept. 30.
On Thursday, Cary Town Council members approved town staff’s request to send a letter to state authorities detailing the town’s worries and suggesting changes to proposed regulations.
Western Cary is located in the Deep River Basin, where recoverable gas might exist. Council members said their top priority is protecting Jordan Lake, the town’s source for drinking water.
Large amounts of water are needed for shale gas exploration, and energy companies also need methods for disposing of water they used for fracking.
State agencies may require municipalities to accept wastewater generated from fracking – a requirement Cary would oppose because the water often contains chemicals that could compromise the efficiency of its treatment plant.
“We believe that wastewater treatment facilities should not be required to accept wastewater produced from these activities,” Cary’s letter states. “Municipal wastewater treatment plants should only accept these wastes on a voluntary basis, with the appropriate pretreatment regulatory authority to prevent discharges that could harm or destroy the plant’s treatment processes.”
The town also seeks changes that might make the permitting process more transparent.
Cary requested that “local governments be notified of permit submittals and modifications, variance requests and petitions for declaratory rulings that affect property with their jurisdictions.”
The town suggests that energy companies place drilling notifications in the newspaper twice – instead of once – before drilling and that the notice contain the county and street address of the site.
“Many citizens across the state rely on their local governments to track activity that might impact the environmental … well-being of their community,” the letter states.
When it comes to cracking down on rule-breakers, Cary “is concerned that an executive branch agency is tasked with making the determination as to whether a local government ordinance has been preempted,” according to the letter.
Council members on Thursday said the letter is not meant to endorse or discourage fracking.
While a town committee has recommended a moratorium on fracking in Cary, the council hasn’t taken a unified stance.
Comments made by some council members at Thursday’s meeting show they have differing opinions on the issue.
“I think it can be done in a safe and responsible manner,” Councilman Don Frantz said.
Council members Lori Bush and Ed Yerha said they oppose fracking in the area because it could harm the environment and contaminate Cary’s drinking water.
“If it were up to me, the rules would say ‘Thou shall not frack,’ ” Yerha said.
Regardless of her personal feelings, Bush said she thinks a letter to state authorities is a good way “to protect the citizens.”