Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fracking, offshore drilling bill nears final approval

The N.C. House has joined the Senate in approving a bill that encourages offshore drilling and calls for study of the controversial practice of "fracking" for natural gas on land.

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican, is a primary sponsor of the Energy Jobs Act. The Senate has already passed the measure that's intended to increase the state's energy production and boost the economy. It's now before a House-Senate conference committee.

The bill directs the governor to form an offshore-energy compact with South Carolina and Virginia, citing the 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that might be recoverable off the N.C. coast. It also divvies up the revenues and royalties the state might take in.

Problem is, the Obama administration has banned offshore drilling on the Eastern seaboard until at least 2018. Obama softened his stance last month as Republicans clamored for increased production and gas prices soared. The administration accelerated environmental reviews and will consider opening to exploration some parts of the southern and central Atlantic coast.

Environmental advocates, with last year's Deepwater Horizon spill in the rear-view mirror, say it's too risky for the state to gamble its coastal tourism and fisheries on drilling.

They also warn against on-shore drilling for natural gas, which might contaminate groundwater. Techniques called hydraulic fracturing, which breaks open shale to release gas, and horizontal drilling have boosted estimates of U.S. gas reserves by 40 percent. Exploration companies are busily buying up leases in Lee and Chatham counties.

Those techniques are now illegal in North Carolina.

Rucho's bill orders the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Energy Jobs Council it creates -- it had been the Energy Policy Council -- to study the commercial potential of shale gas and review drilling regulations.

Largely missing from the measure is mention of a third energy source: wind power. The shallow waters of the mid-Atlantic coast, including North Carolina, hold some of the nation's highest wind-energy potential, the Interior Department reported in 2009.


Nate said...

The fracking legislation is particularly frustrating. We're living in a state that is always on the verge of drought. Not 4 years ago Raleigh was within a month of running out of potable water, and these Republicans want to introduce an industry that, for all the many unknown concerns, is known to require massive quantities of groundwater to operate these wells.

The short-sightedness is stunning.

Anonymous said...

These fracking politicians are just corporate puppets, selling out our children's future to line their pockets.

therestofthestory said...

Interesting comment about the off shore wind potential. According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, you can see the wind map on their web site, our coast hardly shows up for the potential of wind energy. Now that the Corp of Engineers now requires extensive environmental impact studies, the projects become almost impossible.

BenRitmato said...

It seems everywhere I turn lately, I see news stories of politicians willing to put American's health and our environment at risk. What is going on??

Anonymous said...

It's the result of Republicans controlling both houses in this state. Absolutely we're going down the wrong path with this legislation.

Anonymous said...

Most of the GOP don't worry about the long term damage becuase the faction they support can afford to move away from the danger. Instead of complaining just use your power to vote in November 2012 and lets get North Carolina back on track!

Anonymous said...

Nate- it requires ZERO water to 'operate' a well. the water required to frac a well flows back after use. it can be recycled for other wells and used multiple times. This is happening now in La. where the cycle is nearly a closed loop.

you can also use waste water from industrial or paper mills vs putting it back in the rivers.

To the author of the post: why is fracking 'controversial'?

Other than the environmental fringe and the NYT you will not find this used to describe fracking. Its been used in tens of thousands of wells and it's not like you have massive problems.

Please justify why that word is used in the headline, it's only fair if you are going to bias the reader like that.

Thanks for the update on the NC law.

BenRitmato said...

“why is fracking 'controversial'?”

1) The industry won’t disclose all the chemicals it uses, but those that we do know about cause cancer, birth defects, and nervous system disorders. See the Review of the DRAFT Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement from 2009. (I can’t post links in the comments.)

2) Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has found over 60 cases of water contamination due to fracking operations.

3) Water use for a single gas well is between 2 million gallons and 7.8 million gallons of water. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, post-extractions water usage is 400 million gallons of water each day.

*That* is why fracking is so ‘controversial.’

Bill said...

On the plus side, having flammable water like they do in other fracking areas (PA and NY) means we'll be able to cut down on our heating bills. We can just light our faucets to heat the home.

Thanks, GOP! You're always looking out for us little guys!

Bill said...

On the plus side, having flammable water like they do in other fracking areas (PA and NY) means we'll be able to cut down on our heating bills. We can just light our faucets to heat the home.

Thanks, GOP! You're always looking out for us little guys!

Anonymous said...

Ben, thanks for your reply as to why fracking is controversial.

Cannot respond in detail to point #1, I havent read it. PBS had a balanced report on fracking 3-4 nights back and noted that the chemicals (which are harmful) were usually less than 1% of the total and that the only people with problems were anecdotally impacted. 'They drilled on my land, and now I have headaches'. Not like a lot of employees with direct contact in high concentrations are dropping like flies- that I have read of.

#2, you would probably find that many spills in NC from hog farms. I hope the fined the violators. Are hog farms 'controversial'?

#3 Union of concerned scientists. Not the most unbiased group.

You completely ignored my point about using water that was already waste water, and recycling it. A solution to a problem.

More preferable to look for solutions.

I'll note that there have been tens of thousands of wells fracked the past 15 years in the USA. And not a whole lot of problems. As a %age how many leaks in Pa of the total? 60 is only a big number in context of a total.

Cheap energy is not risk free. Every choice has a downside...even a prius makes no sense when you do the carbon math on the rare earth extraction vs the battery life.

So yeah, still not sure about why it's 'controversial' to frack. So I respectfully disagree.

Jeff Hubbard said...

wow, the liberals are out in force today, or perhaps maybe 1 or 2 using different names. Maybe you libs are content with the rising prices of fuel, but I am not. There has been no study done to determine a large risk, only speculation. There are risks in everything we do, but we must also look for ways to become less dependent on foreign suppliers. It is the dems that have created a horible look into the future for our children. Scare tactic (remember Global Warming?) Al Gore has taught you all to be god little lemmings.

ric starnes said...

OMG!...this country is at the mercy of countries that sell us oil that wants to kill americans and some liberal morons on here doesnt want drilling off the coast that would create jobs...lessen our dependecy on middle eatern oil..and add to the state tax base that would aid in education. Of course their leader Imahm Obama has already kept NC from states rights by banning drilling off our own coast. Why dont you liberals just go ahead and wear an al queda patch or flag so you can show your true allegence.