To “frack” or not to “frack”

“Fracking,” or Hydraulic Fracturing, has been in the news here and across the country over the last month or so. There have been documentaries, news stories, and editorials. It was even a question asked during the Town of Cary Candidate Forum this year.

Why here? Why now?

You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal here considering that fracking, or horizontal drilling in NC is illegal, today.  But, NC House Bill 242, directs the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) to study fracking.  That’s just the beginning of what many say will be a move to make it legal in NC.

Natural Gas is still an inexpensive energy source, but one with a significant amount of controversy.  Based on research by U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), along with the US Geological Surveys, there is a good possibility of a significant amount of Natural Gas here, in Wake, Chatham, Durham, and Lee Counties.  Those are counties that are part of the 150 mile long Deep River Basin, that runs right along Jordan Lake, our collective drinking water supply.  This gas is about a half-mile below the surface.  It’s not thought to be as large a supply as what is in Pennsylvania, New York, or Texas, but it’s enough to be interesting.  And, close enough to our water supply, to cause me concern.

What can we do?

First, I wanted our town to be prepared to understand the impact to our community, and to be proactive in our position(s) regarding this issue. That’s why Mayor Weinbrecht and I made a motion for our staff, the Cary Environmental Advisory Board,  and the Economic Development Commission to weigh in on the pros and cons of suggested actions the Town of Cary may take on the issue.  That motion passed, and I look forward to their report.

Next, I attended a Fracking Symposium held by the NC League of Municipalities last week. It was a good forum that covered “fracking” from economic and job growth, to environmental and chemical considerations, to land owner’s mineral rights.  It was good to see a number of municipalities attending, and asking their OWN questions regarding the impact of this method.

Key Takeaways

As with any new adventure, I’m finding that the people I meet, and the information I learn is as exciting as I had hoped.  Here are just a few of my takeaways from the symposium.

  • Photo by Darth Pedrius

    Each and every municipality that attended (from Chapel Hill, Durham, Creedmoor and others) want to find a way to have some say in what happens in their community.  Some, like Creedmoor, have already passed ordinances.

  • Vik Rao, a former VP at Halliburton, now an Executive Director at Research Triangle Energy Consortium, supports fracking, but had a number of cautions.
  1. That in drought tolerant areas (like ours) using saline aquifers (NOT FRESH WATER) is key – and that NO fresh water should be used
  2. Water should be re-used, not disposed of (more than 6 million gallons of water can be used for a single fracture)
  • Fracking can bring a significant number of jobs, but the key will be to understand the amount of gas available, and when those jobs will come.  Also, the infrastructure to support it needs to be built. Many believe that leases that are being bought NOW, will not be used for many years to come.
  • Representative Hager is open to protecting sensitive areas (areas around schools, tourist areas, etc.)
    1. Municipalities need to suggest that other areas should be protected (historic, conservation districts, sensitive agriculture, etc.)
  • Mineral Estates and Surface leases are split. This was a surprise to me, but apparently this occurred during the Great Depression, when many families sold their mineral rights to pay for taxes and allow underground coal mining.  Now, it is possible for a “surface land owner” to own the ground on top, but another owner could have the rights to what is underneath, often referred to as a “split estate.”  And, in this case, the Mineral Estate is dominant, meaning that the surface owner has no say in what happens under their property.
    1. 9000 leases are currently signed in the area
    2. 14 counties are part of the Deep River Basin – Durham Sub Basin impacts Wake, Durham, Chatham counties
6 Responses to To “frack” or not to “frack”
  1. [...] involvement and feedback is a valuable component of moving forward. (I wrote more about this in an earli...