Fracking

Thousands marched to the North Carolina State Capitol building on Saturday.
James Willamor via Flickr

Organizers of Saturday’s moral march on Raleigh plan to use the event’s momentum to mobilize voters, they say. The event follows last year’s weekly Moral Monday rallies that criticized laws passed by North Carolina’s Republican-led government.  The new focus is on the fall elections.

Photo: A rig and gas well operation on the Marcellus Shale in Scott Township, Pennsylvania.
WCN247 via Flickr

The head of the commission appointed to write North Carolina’s rules for hydraulic fracturing for natural gas asked lawmakers Tuesday to halve the area for which drilling companies would be responsible in case of water contamination.

James Womack, chairman of the state’s Energy and Mining Commission, asked that drilling companies be held liable for contamination up to 2,500 feet from excavation sites. Under Senate Law 143, which was signed in 2012, mining companies are liable up to 5,000 ft.

Gov. Pat McCrory
Governor's Office

Governor Pat McCrory held a press conference Tuesday to lay out his administration’s priorities in his second year in office. He said he plans to increase teacher pay, though he didn’t say by how much. The governor also said his administration plans to submit recommendations for Medicaid reform to legislators in March. And McCrory emphasized in order to boost the state’s economy over the long term, he’d like to encourage more energy exploration.  

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
wcn 247 / Flickr

The panel that is writing the rules that may become North Carolina’s fracking laws will not require drilling companies to disclose which chemicals they use to extract gas.

Members of the Energy and Mining Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the rule, which stumped them for more than a year and drew  input from environmental and business groups.

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

An energy company that’s exploring the potential for natural gas drilling in North Carolina is scaling back research efforts in Lee County. 

Worker oversees the process of mixing water with fracking fluids to be injected into the ground.
Joshua Doubek, via Wikipedia

 

  Experts have been looking at the piedmont and coastal plain as a potential fracking zone. 

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
wcn 247 / Flickr

Groundwater and sediment from a natural gas fracking treatment site in Pennsylvania is contaminated with chemicals and radioactivity.

That's the finding of a new study at Duke University. Researchers examined the quality of shale gas wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in the stream water above and below a disposal site about an hour east of Pittsburgh. 

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

North Carolina environmental officials have said "no" to a federal grant to check water quality in areas where fracking may occur.  The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources says the money from the EPA would only pay for salaries of people brought in to do testing. 

Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder says DENR doesn't need them.

One of two wooden tripods built by protesters in front of an entrance to a chemical plant in Morganton, NC. A person was perched at the top of the contraption for several hours, preventing vehicles from entering or leaving the plant.
Croatan Earth First

Members of an environmental group protested Monday morning at the site of a chemical plant in Morgantown about 80 miles northwest of Charlotte. Members of the group Croatan Earth First! demonstrated at the Momentive plant. The company makes chemicals, one of which is used in hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process of extracting natural gas from underground rock.

Protestors set up two large tripods in front of the main entrances in an effort to shut down the plant for the day.

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
wcn 247 / Flickr

New samples of drinking water near hydraulic fracturing sites in Pennsylvania show more evidence of natural gas contamination. 

A report released today from Duke University says researchers found ethane and propane in addition to methane in water near fracking sites in the Marcellus shale basin.  The same team of scientists first found elevated levels of methane in Pennsylvania drinking water in 2011.

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

New tests near hydraulic fracturing sites in Arkansas show no evidence of methane leaking into groundwater supplies. A study released Wednesday from Duke University found no negative effects on drinking water near fracking operations. 

A drill rig on a fracking site.
EPA

The natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has been a source of debate and contention in the state for quite some time now. It involves drilling horizontally through thousands of feet of shale and blasting the shale with water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas. Several states allow the process, some are in the process of figuring out how to regulate it, and some, like New York, have placed a moratorium on the process due to environmental concerns.

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

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a relatively new technology. It involves drilling horizontally through thousands of feet of shale and blasting the shale with water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas. The state’s Mining and Energy Commission is coming up with new regulations for the gas industry, and revisiting some old ones. Among the most contentious regulations are those for what’s called forced or compulsory pooling.

Fracking North Carolina: What Do We Do With The Waste?

Apr 23, 2013
Ed Harris on his farm in Lee County.
Richard Ziglar

The price of natural gas has fallen to all time lows and is replacing dirtier fuels like coal.  So why are environmentalists so concerned about drilling for natural gas here in North Carolina?  The process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to release the gas from the surrounding shale rock brings with it its own environmental problems including massive amounts of wastewater. This is the second story in our “Fracking North Carolina” series.

Fracking North Carolina: Why Now?

Apr 22, 2013
Butler #3 natural gas well in Lee County.
Ray Covington

North Carolina has never been a player in natural gas production, but that could change thanks to a new extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking involves cracking shale rock to release natural gas so that it can be pumped out of the ground. This story is the first in a special “Fracking North Carolina” series. 

There’s a North Carolina sound that only a few dozen people have ever heard: gas escaping from a well in Lee County.

Standing in front of a well called Butler #3, you can see that it’s a shut-in well, which means it’s been capped with something called a “Christmas tree.” The Christmas tree is only about five feet tall; it’s painted green and it has three shut-off valves coming out of it. It’s set up this way so people can come back and attach pipes to it, but it has been shut off since the 1990s.

Construction workers monitor the a solar farm in Fuquay Varina
http://www.stratasolar.com / Strata Solar

North Carolina companies are in the midst of a sustainable energy boom. Solar farms have bloomed, wind farms could be on their way, and local entrepreneurs are experimenting with biofuels and solar power. But cheap natural gas and new legislation could slow sustainable energy growth.

Experts are discussing these advancements at the North Carolina Department of Commerce's 10th Annual Sustainable Energy Conference in Raleigh today. Keynote speaker Marilyn Brown is a professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She said today on The State of Things that many people are looking to fracking for natural gas to solve our energy needs.

When workplace safety expert Eric Esswein got a chance to see fracking in action not too long ago, what he noticed was all the dust.

It was coming off big machines used to haul around huge loads of sand. The sand is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas extraction. After workers drill down into rock, they create fractures in that rock by pumping in a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The sand keeps the cracks propped open so that oil and gas are released.

A survey from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows natural gas deposits in central NC.
NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources / ncdenr.org

State regulators plan to measure air quality above deposits of natural gas. North Carolina lawmakers are moving to ease regulations on hydraulic fracturing. 

Leaders from across the country will speak tomorrow at a conference on the health effects of natural gas fracking. The Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative is a non-profit group that holds an annual conference every year on health issues. Martin Armes is the executive director of the collaborative. He said,  "We certainly recognize that we identify some hot button issues but we're going to try to conduct these meetings in a manner to be as productive as we can to make some recommendations. And we try to depoliticize the process as much as we can."

A homebuilding company that had retained the mineral rights of about 850 newly built houses has agreed to return them to consumers.

Members of the state Mining and Energy Commission will hold their first meeting tomorrow. The 15-member commission was created by a state law passed earlier this year that authorizes natural gas fracking as early as 2014. The commission's role is to create a modern regulatory program for the management of oil and gas exploration and development activities in the state. Marva Mizell Price, a professor at the Duke University School of Nursing, is part of the group.

A conference on North Carolina shale is underway in Raleigh. Scientists, government officials, environmentalists, and industry representatives will consider the potential and pitfalls of natural gas drilling in the state.

Lee County is one of a handful of central North Carolina areas known to have natural gas reserves. Ever since state legislators passed a law to allow the horizontal drilling method of extracting natural gas known as fracking, county residents have been wondering when and if they’ll see gas wells sprouting up in their backyards. People in the community are divided over what fracking could mean for them.

Senate lawmakers have passed a bill that would allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state.

A controversial bill that would allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state passed an important legislative committee yesterday. Fracking uses horizontal drilling methods to access trapped pockets of natural gas. The bill’s sponsors say it will bring much-needed money and jobs into the state, but opponents of the measure say there aren’t enough safeguards.

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