New report details cost of fracking

NC local elected leaders speak out
For immediate release

Raleigh, NC—Joined by several local elected officials from Creedmoor to Chatham County, Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center today released a report documenting the monetary costs imposed by “fracking,” the controversial form of gas drilling the General Assembly moved to legalize in July.  As documented in the study, fracking creates millions of dollars of costs—many paid at the local level—related to everything from contaminated drinking water to accidents that require emergency response.

“Fracking’s threat to our drinking water is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty drilling also imposes heavy dollars-and-cents costs,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina State Director.  “And that is all the more reason we must keep North Carolina free from fracking.”

One of the worst problems associated with fracking is the contamination of drinking water, and that comes with a price tag.  For example, In Dimock, Pennsylvania, fracking operations contaminated the drinking water wells of several households for roughly three years, perhaps more.  Providing just 14 of those families with temporary water cost more than $100,000.   Providing a permanent new source of clean drinking water would have cost an estimated $11.8 million.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that more than 360,000 North Carolinians rely on private wells for drinking water in the 12-county area where shale gas supplies are suspected.

“More than half of Chatham County residents rely on private wells for their drinking water,” said Sally Kost, Chatham County Commissioner.  “As a county commissioner, I am concerned that as the drillers take their profits and leave North Carolina, the cost of the cleanup will be passed on to the Chatham County taxpayer.”

Ten counties and cities in North Carolina have already passed resolutions and ordinances against fracking—ranging from outright bans to appeals to the NC General Assembly to proceed with caution.

“The town board is responsible for ensuring that the potable water it supplies to businesses and residents is plentiful and safe,” said Mayor Randy Voller of Pittsboro.  “Fracking is a variable that we can’t account for.  So until we’re convinced it’s safe, we oppose fracking in Pittsboro.”

In addition to water cleanup costs, the report shows that fracking damage exacts other tolls that could fall to local communities to pay.  For example:  

Health:  in Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale region, air pollution from fracking operations impose health costs estimated at $9.8 million in one year.  In Texas’ Barnett Shale region, those costs reach $270,000 per day during the summer smog season.

Emergency Response: A 2011 survey in eight Pennsylvania counties found that 911 calls had increased in seven of them, with the number of calls increasing in one county by 49 percent over three years, largely due to an increase in incidents involving heavy trucks. In North Dakota, highway crashes increased by 68 percent between 2006 and 2010, with an increased cost of $31 million.

In Granville County, Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss said fracking could cause his volunteer fire department to handle environmental incidents.  

"In terms of trying to figure out how to get them the equipment they need in order to respond to an environment they don't have to respond to today - we are looking at millions of dollars just on that piece of it alone,” he said.

The Costs of Fracking report comes as the state’s Mining and Energy Commission is beginning to develop recommendations on a range of regulatory issues, including impact fees and bonding.  The Commission is also required by Senate Bill 820 to develop “uniform” rules that would prohibit local bans on fracking.

Environment North Carolina and the local officials gathered across from Raleigh’s Municipal Building urged the General Assembly to maintain the state’s moratorium on fracking along with local governments’ authority to ban it.

“We already know about fracking’s damage to our environment and health.   These dollars and cents costs are one more reason to reject this dirty drilling practice,” concluded Ouzts.