What the frack?

By Kitsey E. Burns kburns@civitasmedia.com

July 15, 2014

Fracking is a topic that has been much discussed in many parts of the country of late, and the discussion is now taking place in Yadkin and Davie counties.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, uses pressurized liquid to break rock in order to obtain the natural gas deposits within. Last month Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that would allow fracking in the state of North Carolina 60 days after the state Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) finalizes rules for the industry.

McCrory’s proposed state budget did not initially include any funds for testing drilling in Yadkin County. However, Sen. Andrew Brock of Davie County has proposed an amendment that would include funds for test drilling in what is known as the Davie Shale Basin, part of which extends from Davie County into the Courtney area in Yadkin County.

Brock said the primary purpose of this budget amendment was just to get the Davie Shale Basin included in studies that are being done around the state to determine if natural gas is present in certain shale basins. Brock said that while the Davie Shale Basin is one of the smallest in the country and “really, really low on the priority list,” he still wanted it included.

“That way it would be on the radar and no one would go start poking holes in the ground without knowledge of what is there,” Brock explained.

Area residents in Yadkin and Davie organized quickly as soon as the news of the budget amendment hit.

The group already has established a Yadkin and Davie Against Fracking Facebook page to share information about the dangers of fracking. The group has 375 Facebook members at this point.

A number of Davie County residents also filled the seats at Monday’s meeting of the Davie County commissioners in order to show their opposition. A meeting is scheduled for Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. at Courtney Elementary School to share information about fracking with Yadkin County residents.

Much of the concern over fracking relates to the chemicals that are used in the process.

“I am far from an expert on fracking, but the more I learn the more I realize that nobody knows enough about it to declare it safe for the environment,” said Yadkin County resident Anne White. “My greatest concern is that fracking will pollute our ground water. If our wells and waterways are polluted, everything we have is gone. There will be no recourse.

“The Yadkin River has always been a source of water for people, animals and crops,” she said. “To have it polluted by chemicals or gas would be devastating and probably irreversible. For those of us who rely on wells for our water, it is particularly troubling to think that anyone would even consider doing something to compromise the safety of our water. I have been told that if there is natural gas in the shale basins, there is probably only enough for about five years. Five years is nothing when compared to destroying water sources that people will need for generations to come.”

She said, “I have also heard the argument that jobs will be created, but it is my understanding that it will only a few hundred throughout the whole state. I live in Huntsville and am the eighth generation of my family to live in Yadkin County. I want my children and their children to be able to live here, too. There are alternative forms of energy, but there are no alternatives forms of land and water. If we do not take care of what we have, they will not be here for future generations. We really don’t own this land, it is ours for only a lifetime and then we pass it on to the next generation. For my part, I want those future generations to see the beautiful rolling, green, fertile hills of Yadkin County and not a wasteland.”

Mary Kerley, a founding member of the grassroots organization No Fracking in Stokes, which formed in 2012, said that in addition to water contamination, fracking could also cause “health problems, especially from toxic air emissions, damage to roads and bridges from increased truck traffic to well sites, fracking wastewater disposal, and threats to our rivers and streams due to spills and excessive withdrawals of water for fracking (especially in times of drought). Additionally, there is an increased burden on emergency responders (law enforcement, EMT, volunteer fire departments) due to increased accidents from heavy truck traffic on rural two-lane roads. Forced pooling, where landowners are compelled to participate in gas leases against their will, and potential eminent domain abuses for gas distribution lines are additional problems.”

Brock said he felt that concerns from opposition groups were “unfounded.” He also said that the state of North Carolina had looked closely at the best environmental practices from other states where fracking occurs to ensure that fracking in North Carolina would be done in the most environmentally-responsible way.

State Senator for Yadkin County Joyce Krawiec also said that the state would make sure that fracking would be done in a way that both benefited the state economically and protected the environment.

“Many people don’t realize that natural gas exploration has been practiced and studied for decades,” Krawiec said. “Natural gas is an affordable and clean alternative source of energy that will create new jobs and investment opportunities across our state. Energy has created phenomenal economic opportunities in other states, and it’s time to bring this prosperity to North Carolina.

“The Energy Modernization Act contains numerous safeguards to ensure that natural gas exploration in North Carolina is safe. Our bill bans injection of waste below ground, bars companies with a history of environmental noncompliance in other states from drilling in North Carolina, increases the water sampling area around a proposed well to a diameter of one mile (the most stringent water testing requirement in the country), and ensures that substances involved in natural gas development are provided to first responders and medical doctors in emergency situations. These measures will help ensure that North Carolina’s environment remains clean and safe, and that our citizens can benefit from the economic promise of natural gas development.”

But area residents don’t plan to sit quietly by as the exploration of fracking in the area continues.

“The facts are very clear that fracking is an environmental disaster happening all over the country, an accident waiting to happen in many areas, and the ruination of water supplies, air quality, health of people and animals and all natural resources surrounding fracking sites,” said area resident Teresa Parks. “This is the last thing our state needs. The last thing Davie and Yadkin County needs. This is a disaster in the making that could never be mitigated.

“We are a small community yet our school received highest awards in the state,” she continued. “Our families and children are happy here. Senator Brock is clearly not in his right mind, or he doesn’t care about the community he grew up in. No one in this area wants to be sick or have contaminated well and groundwater as well as polluted land and air. Fracking pollutes everything around it. There is no way to avert a disaster if this goes forward. That is the trade off for natural gas fracking and it is simply not worth it. Everyone who lives near fracking sites knows this. Not that many people could be crazy. They are telling the truth. I am not an activist, nor an environmentalist, nor an expert, I am a hardworking very concerned land/home owner who votes. I know from educating myself on fracking that it is dangerous to everything and everyone around it.”

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.