Hundreds of clean water activists visit the capitol to fight fracking

Senate bill advances over protests from lawmakers concerned about environment

Raleigh, NC— Roughly 200 citizens from around the state visited the capitol today to urge lawmakers to reject Sen. Bob Rucho’s pro-fracking bill, which would pave the way for the controversial form of drilling as soon as 2014.  The measure cleared a Senate committee over protests from environmental groups, landowners, scientists, and lawmakers who raised concerns about fracking’s impacts on the environment.

“Fracking will put drinking water for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians at risk,” said Elizabeth Ouzts with Environment North Carolina.  “That’s why so many citizens are here today to urge members not to rush ahead with this risky drilling practice.”

Planning to fill the large committee room where the meeting was originally scheduled, activists were too numerous to fit into the smaller room where the meeting was moved at the last minute.

Fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing,” is the process by which water, sand, and toxic chemicals are injected into wells at high pressure in order to extract shale gas.

State laws currently prohibit two key aspects of the technology: horizontal drilling and injecting chemicals into the ground.  Senate Bill 820 lifts those prohibitions and tasks an industry-dominated commission with developing rules that could allow the practice as soon as 2014.

A 484-page study from the state’s environmental agency documents the extent to which fracking has contaminated water supplies and waterways around the country.  Because shale gas reserves are much closer to North Carolina’s groundwater supplies than in other states, fracking could pose even greater risks here.

The state’s shale gas supplies are an open question.   Early estimates were that the supplies would cover 40 years of the state’s natural gas use.  They’ve since been revised to about five.  The U.S. Geological Survey is expected to issue a more definitive estimate this year.

The activists gathered at the legislative building today represented more than 20 local, state, and regional environmental groups, including Clean Water for North Carolina, Environment North Carolina, NC Conservation Network, the Cumnock Preservation Association, the Haw River Assembly, and the NC Sierra Club.