Science-Based Hydraulic Fracturing Decisions
There is a simple lesson to be learned from controversies surrounding the natural gas boom in other states: a rush to drill is bad for communities, the environment, and public health. Waste water associated with natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing has caused water contamination and problems in water treatment facilities, methane has seeped into drinking water wells located near natural gas wells, small earthquakes have terrified residents, increased truck and heavy equipment traffic have overwhelmed local roads and budgets, and poor development practices have caused property values to plummet. North Carolina can avoid these problems by not rushing to drill. Policymakers should instead support the kinds of studies needed to know whether hydraulic fracturing and natural gas drilling can be done in a way that protects our unique natural places and preserves the special character of our small towns and communities. Extensive public and private research is underway on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, including an EPA ground water contamination study that will be completed in 2014.
In a recent study ordered by the General Assembly, DENR concluded that numerous safeguards need to be in place before any drilling begins in North Carolina. This year, many legislators still seem poised to ignore health and safety concerns in exchange for perceived short term economic benefits that have not been proven. Lessons from the experiences of other states clearly show that North Carolina should avoid rushing to drill: we must carefully consider the concerns raised by DENR and the Commerce Department, and make sound, science-based decisions that protect the health of our families, communities, and environment. Once we have these answers, we may very well determine that natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing is not right for North Carolina. We need a strong, effective regulatory framework to manage the impacts before considering legalizing hydraulic fracturing. We need to ensure that oversight of this industry remains in the hands of the state agency tasked with protecting North Carolina’s natural resources and public health, not the industries which stand to profit from the resource.