Law allows fracking in Tri-County

Baskerville: Energy bill puts cart before horse
Aug. 04, 2014 @ 03:44 PM

A state fracking bill recently enacted into law could impact southern Granville County, particularly Creedmoor — which sits on the edge of a shale formation containing natural gas.

Senate Bill 786, or the Energy Modernization Act, repeals the law that prohibited the issuance of permits for oil and gas exploration and development activities using horizontal drilling and fracturing until the General Assembly took legislative action to allow the issuance of such permits.

Permits could be issued as early as March 2015.

Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — refers to the process of extracting natural gas from shale formations deep beneath the earth’s surface.

State Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr., Rep. Winkie Wilkins, Sen. Angela R. Bryant, and Rep. Nathan Baskerville voted against the bill, which passed in the state legislature and was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory on June 4.

Baskerville — who represents Vance, Granville and Warren counties — wrote in an email he voted no in part because of the process and in part because of the substance of the bill.

“Why would we move the state closer to issuing these permits before the Environmental Management Commission and Mining and Energy Commission has a opportunity to develop and present their safety and environmental rules?” he wrote in an email. “This is putting the cart before the horse. Shouldn’t we allow the commission to develop the rules dictating how they believe fracking can be done safely, and then, make an informed decision on whether to lift the permitting moratorium based on actual knowledge of the environmental impact?”

He wrote state regulation of local fracking ordinances is another reason he voted against it.

“This bill also invalidates local ordinances that prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities (including any local taxes, fees, or charges or local ordinances that regulate health environment, or land use),” he wrote. “This strips control from communities to determine whether or not to allow fracking in their backyards. The state has already made that determination for them.”

Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss and city officials tried to ban fracking when the city passed the first municipal ordinance prohibiting the practice within its limits.

“Since then, our ordinance has been preempted by state legislation,” he said. “We are still maintaining we have zoning authority in our community.”

Moss said Creedmoor is located entirely in the Falls Lake watershed — which provides Raleigh’s drinking water supply.

“We are already responsible for protecting Falls Lake,” he said. “We don’t want to add any other complexities that result from fracking.”

Moss said he and some of his residents are concerned they won’t know the chemical ingredients used in fracking fluid.

The Energy Modernization Act makes the toxic combination of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing a trade secret, Baskerville wrote.

“That means that only the Mining and Energy Commission and Department of Environment and Natural Resources will know the concoction,” he wrote in an email. “Disclosure to anyone else of these ‘trade secrets’ is punishable as a Class I felony.”

Officials with the state Mining and Energy Commission are seeking public input on the new oil and gas regulations.

Moss said he plans to attend the first public hearing Aug. 20.

“We are going to continue monitoring the legislation and do everything we can to preserve the local authority,” he said.

The public hearings are scheduled for:

• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 20 at the McKimmon Center, 1101 Gorman St., Raleigh.

• 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Wicker Center, 1801 Nash St., Sanford.

• 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 25 at Rockingham High School, 180 High School Road, Reidsville.

Written comments from the public will be accepted at three public hearings and may also be submitted at any time through Sept. 15.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.