Fracking

An image of fracking natural gas
AP Images

In February, the N.C. Utilities Commission gave Duke Energy approval to build two natural gas-fired units at an Asheville power plant.  Natural gas is considered a "bridge fuel" between fossil fuels and renewable energy, but experts warn that it can actually be worse than coal for the environment. 

Cutting down on coal in Asheville stems from a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but relying on natural gas ignores dangerous emissions of methane. 

Wells
wikimedia

  A superior court judge in Wake County today halted fracking in the state. The court order prohibits the Mining and Energy Commission from accepting or processing fracking permits. The decision is a temporary legal victory for environmental groups across the state.Meanwhile, at the legislature, House representatives are preparing to debate a $22.2 billion spending plan. The initial proposal includes more money for teachers, state employees and incentives. Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC reporters Dave Dewitt and Jeff Tiberii about the latest.

A Marcellus Shale drill rig in Pennsylvania used in the fracking process.
Ken Skipper, USGS

Advocates against fracking have won a temporary legal victory. A Wake County superior court judge has issued an injunction against awarding permits – effectively reinstating a fracking moratorium. 

The temporary injunction goes into effect today. It stops the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission from reviewing any fracking permits.

A crude oil mining site in Oxnard, Calif.
Faces of Fracking

The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a controversial measure that could exempt the state from creating its own air-quality standards for fracking.

Republican supporters say the plan will take a burden off state regulators while Democratic opponents complain existing federal regulations alone are insufficient.

A crude oil mining site in Oxnard, Calif.
Faces of Fracking

State environmental officials might not have to adopt air quality standards for fracking. A controversial measure that would passed a key committee in the legislature yesterday.

Rep. Mike Hagar (R-Rutherford), who sponsored the measure, says there are already federal rules governing air quality at fracking sites.

"We're not going to re-write rules that are already out there," he says. "That's inefficient. That costs the taxpayers money for people to go work doing stuff they don't need to do."

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Coal ash and fracking will dominate the environmental headlines this year. But the story will be different in the Legislature, where as much news will be made by what’s not discussed as by what is.

Some observers believe that the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that has been such a contentious issue in years past may not come up at all this session. It requires utility companies to generate 12.5 percent of its electricity using renewables by 2021.

The REP Standard first passed in 2007 and sustained a Republican challenge in 2013.

The commission tasked with drafting the rules for hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina is considering some small changes. The Mining and Energy Commission is meeting today and tomorrow in Raleigh.

Over the past several months, the MEC received more than 200,000 comments from nearly 40,000 people. Many wanted an outright fracking ban; others pointed to more specific rule changes they wanted, like requiring pits that store fracking waste to be capped.

Fracking
Wikipedia

    

Earlier this year, a new law lifted the ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in North Carolina.  Legislators said fracking permits could be issued as early as this coming spring. The process, which extracts natural gas from deep within the earth, is a controversial one.

Opponents say allowing fracking here could cause air and water pollution and adversely affect vulnerable populations. Advocates say fracking could bring economic prosperity and jobs to the state.

Host Frank Stasio talks with a panel of experts about fracking:

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) water cycle.
Environmental Protection Agency

Big news came out this week about fracking: Duke scientists have found that natural gas wells used in fracking caused contamination in eight drinking water wells in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Photo: A drilling site in northeastern Louisiana.
Daniel Foster via Flickr

A Duke University study exonerates hydraulic fracturing from contaminating drinking water at sites in Pennsylvania and Texas. Instead, researchers blame faulty shale gas wells for leaking methane into the water, sometimes making it flammable.

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