Midtown Raleigh News

Granville board headed toward vote to oppose fracking

Officials in Granville County plan to make it clear they do not want fracking in the county.

The county’s commissioners voted 5-1 last week to have county staff prepare a resolution that opposes hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as fracking – a controversial process used to extract natural gas from shale formations deep underground.

The commissioners are expected to vote on the resolution Oct. 21.

The resolution is an official way of registering the board’s opinion, but it is not legally binding the way an ordinance would be.

Granville County sits on the edge of a shale formation that is concentrated in Lee County but includes portions of Moore, Chatham, Orange and Wake counties. It is unknown how extensive the natural gas deposits are in Granville County or if it would be economically viable to drill for them.

Fracking involves drilling wells and injecting those wells with water and chemicals at high pressure to fracture the rock and release gas. Opponents say it carries significant public health and environmental risks.

Fracking currently is under moratorium in the state, but the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission is writing regulations for oil and gas exploration and development that the legislature will consider.

Environment committee report

The vote in Granville came in response to a report by the county’s Committee for Environmental Affairs that recommended the commissioners oppose fracking because of “negative impacts” on ground water and surface water, as well as atmospheric and soil quality.

The committee, composed of Granville citizens, also cited “the lack of significant standards and oversight applicable to hydraulic fracturing” in their report.

Board Chairman Edgar Smoak, who voted in favor of drafting the resolution, said that he thinks fracking may work elsewhere in the country but not in Granville County. He has questions about what would happen to any wastewater and is concerned any drilling would happen too close to people’s homes.

“I thought the risks involved with it outweighed the benefits,” he said.

Commissioner Timothy Karan, the lone vote against drafting the resolution, said he did not think the committee’s report was broad enough in scope to assess whether fracking would be detrimental.

Several other N.C. municipalities, including Butner and Cary, have passed resolutions opposing fracking or urging the state to be cautious about allowing the practice. The cities of Creedmoor and Raleigh also have passed ordinances banning fracking. Those ordinances would be trumped if a state law allowed the practice.

A study group of the Mining and Energy Commission recommended in a recent report that local governments should not be able to prohibit oil or gas operations. The report is scheduled to be submitted to the legislature Oct. 1 and is expected to considered next year.