| Law & Industry Daily
Published on: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

N.C. DENR Study Backs Fracking


RALEIGH, N.C., March 20 (LID) – North Carolina environmental officials have recommended the state allow extraction of natural gas by the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) made the suggestion in a draft report issued Friday. A final report is due to be submitted to the General Assembly by May 1.

“Hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in North Carolina as long as the right protections are in place prior to issuance of any permits for the practice,” DENR said in a statement announcing the report release. “The report also notes the need for more information on groundwater resources in the area where drilling for shale gas may occur before making final decisions on environmental standards.”

In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly called, high-pressure chemical fluids and abrasives are blasted into shale deposits to extract natural gas.

The DENR report outlines the department’s findings on the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of shale gas exploration and development in North Carolina. The study was mandated by Session Law 2011-276.

“After reviewing other studies and experiences in oil- and gas-producing states, DENR believes that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely as long as the right protections are in place,” the draft report said. “It will be important to have those measures in place before issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina’s shale formations.”

The report outlines a dozen recommendations for lawmakers before allowing underground natural gas deposit to be tapped by fracking, a process opposed by environmental groups. Recommendations include that the state develop an oil and gas waste management regulatory program.

The North Carolina Oil and Gas Conservation Act regulates drilling in the state (NCGS §§ 113-387 to 113-415).  Permitting and construction of oil and gas wells is regulated under Article 27 of GS 113 and rules in 15A NCAC 5D.

For her part, Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) has said she is not opposed to allowing fracking in the state, provided there is proper oversight and environmental precautions.

A report issued in February by STRONGER, the nonprofit State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, found that DENR programs “have not been developed in anticipation of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production activities.”

The report noted, “When asked what standards would apply if an operator wanted to drill a well today, the review team was told that existing statutes and rules would be applied on a case-by-case basis.”

According to the North Carolina Geological Survey, there is natural gas under the Sanford Sub-Basin, which spans Lee, Chatham and Moore counties, and likely under the Dan River Basin, in Rockingham and Stokes counties.

The NCDNR report is available at http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=4241819&name=DLFE-49466.pdf.

A copy of the STRONGER report is available at http://www.strongerinc.org/documents/North%20Carolina%20Initial%20Review%202-2012.pdf.

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