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N. Carolina Fracking Rules Take Effect This Week

March 18th, 2015

A set of 120 fracking rules established by the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission are expected to go into effect this week. The state agency created the fracking rules to address health and environmental concerns from the state’s residents about the fracking process. Oil and gas exploration companies are expected to start drilling in the state later this year. However, opponents of the fracking process claim that the rules do not contain enough environmental protections.

How Fracking Works

The fracking process involves the injection of water, sand, and various chemicals into deep wells. These wells are drilled into shale deposits believed to contain oil and natural gas reserves. These reserves would not be accessible by standard drilling methods. The fracking fluid breaks up the surrounding shale deposits and allows the drillers access to the trapped oil and gas reserves. North Carolina’s fracking rules would regulate the licensing process for these drilling sites, as well as where the drilling can occur.

State Fracking Rules Outline Procedures

The state’s new fracking rules would include provisions for constructing the fracking wells, as well as for testing the water in and around the wells. The fracking rules also state that drillers must create “buffer zones” between the drill sites and populated areas. The fracking rules also require that drilling companies must purchase the mineral rights to a “drilling unit” of hundreds of acres. The company can then apply for a drilling permit. The state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has up to six months to review a permit application.

Deposit Discoveries Prompt Fracking Rules

The state drew the attention of fracking operators when research scientists discovered shale layers that may contain previously inaccessible natural gas deposits. As of yet, their research has not confirmed the extent of the deposits. State legislators approved a law that would allow fracking activities in 2013. Governor Pat McCrory (Republican) signed the bill in June 2014. The Mining and Energy Commission received over 200,000 public comments after the law passed and posted the fracking rules for public review.

Environmentalists: Fracking Rules Don’t Go Far Enough

Environmental activists have stated that the fracking rules fail to provide adequate protection from the dangers of fracking. Mary Maclean Asbill, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, stated that “many of the rules are not protective of the environment or human health in North Carolina.” The group also filed a lawsuit seeking to block the issuance of fracking permits. The suit also alleges that the formation of the Mining Commission went against the state’s constitution.

Source: Fayetteville Observer:

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