Cary News

Apex wants local controls for fracking

As the controversial bill to legalize the natural gas drilling method known as fracking works its way through the statehouse, the Apex Town Council is taking proactive measures.

The council decided Tuesday to support the N.C. League of Municipalities’ stance to protect local governments’ authority to oversee planning, zoning and permitting.

Cary passed a resolution in March asking the state for local controls, and formed the Shale Gas Development Task Force of in December to investigate the pros and cons of fracking.

State lawmakers are pushing to pass a bill this summer to legalize the natural gas drilling method within the next few years. Fracking has drawn the attention of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups concerned over possible water contamination. Vermont on Wednesday became the first state to ban fracking due to concerns over groundwater quality.

It’s undetermined if there is any shale gas in Apex, but the town wants to be prepared, said Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford.

“In the end this boils down to a quality of life issue,” Radford said. “It’s just good planning on our part. The last thing we would want to do is be asleep at the wheel and then have a subdivision come in and say we have found natural gas and we’ve bought up half the lots.”

Apex Councilman Bill Jensen said he was concerned that if local municipalities were not given oversight it could hurt established neighborhoods.

“They could buy a house and bulldoze it,” Jensen said. “Restrictions as necessary.”

The state is believed to contain underground reserves of shale gas concentrated around Lee, Moore and Chatham counties and extending about 150 miles through the state’s midsection.

Hydraulic fracturing pumps millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep into wells to blast out the natural gas. Apex gets its water from Jordan Lake, which is farther north than where the deposits are believed to be, and it’s unlikely that there will be impacts on the town’s water, Radford said.

But given the topography of the area, it was hard to predict the impact for Apex without a professional opinion, Radford said.