Lee County has been getting a lot of attention as the site of most potential natural gas resource trapped in Deep River basin shales. However, an increasing number of residents of the Sanford and are gearing up to take action on behalf of their communities. Indeed, there are currently four local groups working to increase outreach about the impacts of fracking: Lee County Say No to Fracking, Stand Your Ground with Ed Harris, Cumnock Preservation Association, and Workers for Clean Water.
Terica Luxton, the lead organizer of Lee County Say No to Fracking, has engaged with nearly 400 residents through a Facebook page, showing a deep concern for water and quality of life. Luxton says she never imagined herself getting so involved in an issue like fracking but finds that it’s more important than ever to connect with others in her community.
On February 12, Luxton collaborated with Ed Harris of “Stand Your Ground,” and with “Workers for Clean Water” in an effort to reach Lee County landowners and educate them on mineral rights, leasing, and fracking. Ed Harris is also new to local organizing but is not afraid to speak his mind. On fracking, Harris warns his fellow citizens, “Folks, fracking might be the greatest thing since sliced bread but when it goes wrong, it goes horribly wrong.”
Members of Workers for Clean Water are particularly concerned about the myth of jobs and the true costs of fracking, so they have largely focused on reaching small landowners or renters who are likely to carry the burdens from the impacts from fracking. Impacts to these folks could include contaminated water and poor quality of life, with none of the bonus checks or royalties from gas extraction.
Similarly, the Cumnock Preservation Association has been focused on community impacts and protecting quality of life. Their website (www.savecumnock.com) is full of resources to track leased land in Lee County and information on recent fracking legislation like Senate Bill 76 and SB 820. Together, these groups demonstrate a true level of commitment to protecting and preserving the communities of the place they call home.
On October 10th, over 300 people attended a Sanford public meeting to provide input for the shale gas study the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources is beginning. Dozens of speakers expressed opposition to approving hydraulic fracturing for gas in NC, especially on such a quick timetable. The bill that mandated the study, House Bill 242, had been strengthened by comments from many groups, including CWFNC, but would rush the NC study’s conclusions and regulatory recommendations before EPA’s study of fracking impacts, not due until 2014, is even halfway finished.
The deadline for the shale gas study report and recommended regulatory changes is May, 2012, just before next year’s short legislative session. Despite assurances that they will “take it slow and do it right” some legislators seem poised to rush legislation next year to allow fracking in NC, just when our environmental agency has been weakened by big cuts in funding, staffing and the ability to make new protective rules.
The meeting on the shale gas study was held in Lee County, where over 9,000 acres of land have been leased for gas drilling, and many speakers were expected to express support for gas development. Instead, all but 3 speakers expressed strong concerns, including fracking’s massive water use, the impacts of heavy trucking, noise, air pollution, pipelines and a lack of wastewater options as well as the unrealistically fast schedule. CWFNC’s comments focused on the need to study health impacts of air and water pollution, the importance of preserving our current groundwater protections, the greater risks involved in fracking NC’s shallow shale formations and impacts on low income residents, people of color and well users near leased areas.
In another sign that momentum against fracking may be building, Creedmoor, a town of 4,000 in Granville County (the north end of the Deep River shale), passed an ordinance September 27 to ban all hydraulic fracturing for gas. Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss emphasized that local governments need to speak out now on this issue to protect the health and safety of their residents.
NC Needs to Stop “Hydrofracking” Land Grab to Protect Water, Communities
The award-winning film “GasLand,” produced and directed by activist Josh Fox, shows tap water catching fire, bleak landscapes covered with gas drilling operations and communities scarred and divided by natural gas mining operations. The film recently aired on HBO is being widely released. CWFNC highly recommends this film, especially for folks living from north central NC down to the southwest piedmont, where deep shales are believed to bear large amounts of natural gas.
As described in our recent Winter Clean Currents, the process of “hydrofracking,” or injecting high pressure fluids into wells into gas shale formations, makes mining these deep shales, including those in NC, more economically attractive, as more gas can be extracted from a single well. While “GasLand” is based mostly on the experiences of New York and Pennsylvania communities, abuses including pollution of surface water by returned fracking fluids have also been documented in Texas and West Virginia, among other states. New York City is taking action to prevent any hydrofracking in its water supply watersheds.
The land grab is on here, too. Gas companies from NC and out of state are sending out signature ready lease agreements to residents in Lee County. The investment of the companies in these leases and the royalties they offer to landowners is an attempt to build a critical mass to change current “injection well” rules that prohibit any injection of wastes or toxic materials, preventing hydrofracking for gas in NC.
In the words of a professional well driller who participated in recent Division of Water Quality stakeholder meetings on injection wells, “If anyone tells you that they can control where or how far the fracturing will go, they’re lying.” The result? Uncontrolled fracturing that can allow contaminated groundwater and gas to move to areas where water was previously safe. CWFNC will track this issue closely – watch for action alerts to help prevent hydrofracking for gas in NC.