The e-mails do not explicitly accuse any companies of breaking the law. But the number of e-mails, the seniority of the people writing them, the variety of positions they hold and the language they use — including comparisons to Ponzi schemes and attempts to “con” Wall Street — suggest that questions about the shale gas industry exist in many corners.
But if natural gas ultimately proves more expensive to extract from the ground than has been predicted, landowners, investors and lenders could see their investments falter, while consumers will pay a price in higher electricity and home heating bills.
There are implications for the environment, too. The technology used to get gas flowing out of the ground — called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — can require over a million gallons of water per well, and some of that water must be disposed of because it becomes contaminated by the process. If shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste.
UPDATE: News 14 Carolina's coverage is even better than the article in the N&R.
Last night's showing of Gasland drew about 50 people to Elon Law, which seemed like a pretty decent turnout to me.
It's an agenda movie, but if it's only 50% true this is something North Carolina needs to think hard about.
Pricey Harrison gave a legislative update before the movie started. GOP leadership in the House has been appropriately cautious on the issue, and coalition-building with hunters and fisherman is possible. The Senate is another story, they'd frack yesterday. Perdue needs to hear now that people are interested in this topic.
Two strands of debate are whether to frack, and how to frack if fracking is allowed. Given the possible impact, not just on the environment but on North Carolina property-owners who would have to navigate leasing and liability matters, not discussing it at all is out of the question.
I had to leave before the discussion portion got going, but I was happy to hear that a range of views were expressed, and, to quote Eric Fink, the conversation remained "cordial and thoughtful." I'd like to hear more, if anyone cares to chime in.
Portions of the film Gasland will be shown at Elon Law School on Thursday 6/23, followed by a discussion of fracking in North Carolina, including remarks by Pricey Harrison. The event is free and open to the public.
Here's some fact-checking on claims and counterclaims about the movie. I don't think Gasland is the last word on the subject. Neither is, "we need domestic sources of energy, and the industry says fracking is completely safe."
Meanwhile, public scrutiny of fracking is yielding some results: "The natural-gas industry, bowing to longtime pressure, will disclose more information about the chemicals it uses in the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing."
A coalition of concerned citizens will sponsor on June 23 a screening in Greensboro of portions of the film "Gasland" and a discussion of issues related to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in North Carolina.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro.
Public discussion of fracking seems to be yielding some results:
For years, the gas industry has bristled and resisted when its environmental practices have been criticized.
But last week, it abruptly took a different tone.
Pennsylvania is playing catch-up -- it's the only state "that allowed the bulk of its well brine to be treated and dumped in rivers and streams. Other states required it to be injected into deep underground shafts."
North Carolina should be ready for this industry and its political muscle. One place to start might be looking into the safety of those underground shafts.
I'm curious about the 20,000 acres of North Carolina estimated to be under mineral rights leases -- where is the land being leased, who are the companies involved, and what is their track record on environmental issues and dealing fairly with the locals?
This totally eases my mind about North Carolina's ability to mitigate water-quality problems associated with fracking:
State programs intended to offset environmental damage from development have spent roughly $140 million on work that is failing, needs significant repair or is too far away from distressed sources of drinking water.
“This bill does nothing as far as allowing fracking to be done,” said Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who is taking the lead on the issue for the Republican-controlled House.
Instead, the Marion Republican said, his bill would eventually include consumer protections for those who lease mineral rights to drilling companies, but who may be signing contracts for less money or with fewer protections than fully informed consumers might.....
...at least 20,000 acres of land are already under mineral rights leases, according to lawmakers.
Gillespie sees experimental wells within four years. Reassuring words are murmured on the subject of updated drilling laws.
(No link -- it's an article of statewide importance that showcases one of the paper's remaining strengths, so naturally it's hidden in the Google-proof vault.)
It's a relief to be told to STFU by Boone Pickens' BFF, because otherwise I might be starting to wonder...
Oil and gas companies injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009 [...] during a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking.
Word is GOP leadership in Raleigh claims to be unaware of any opposition to fast-tracking fracking. Maybe you should let them know how you feel.
Nocera, fresh to the big stage of the oped page, responds to legitimate questions about a recent column by throwing a hissy fit.
Joe, Joe, Joe. You wrote a column about natural gas without mentioning environmental concerns. Readers pointed out the omission. The proper response is to concede the oversight and deal with the issues at hand, not to snark at your critics and wave the bloody shirt ("...the Middle East, where American soldiers continue to die") as if drill, baby, drill was the only true expression of patriotism.
Beneath the attitude, even you are forced to acknolwedge serious problems with "sloppy gas producers who didn’t take proper care in cementing their wells," and admit that "producers in the Marcellus Shale will have to do a better job getting rid of the waste."
You say we need to "insist that it be done properly."
But on a day when your own newspaper front-pages an article about weakening enivonmental protections in the states -- incuding North Carolina, where the fracking fight is just beginning -- your casual attitude is irresponsible.
Of is your BFF Boone going to take care of all that for us, too?
A question as an NC fracking bill moves forward, about drillling companies "getting landowners to sign legally binding lease contracts for an activity that is currently illegal in this state."
More from Pricey Harrison's constituent email:
The [House Environment] Committee also considered an early draft of a bill to address natural gas fracking (HB 242*). North Carolina appears to have natural gas deposits in the Deep River Basin, primarily in Lee County. This gas is extracted through a destructively toxic process that injects millions of gallons of water into shale layers, which releases the natural gas (along with methane and other bad stuff). Although North Carolina law currently prohibits horizontal drilling, which is how the resource is extracted, our statutes and regulations are woefully out of date, more than 60 years old in places. This bill is an attempt to modernize fees and bonding limits and includes a requirement that the Department of the Environment study drilling in the state and its impacts. Groundwater contamination is a big issue with this process as well as increased seismic activity in addition to other issues. Other states have put protections in place for the public health, the environment, and the consumer (many farmers have been taken advantage of with low lease/royalty agreements). It is my hope that NC refrains from authorizing fracking at this point given all of the uncertainties and problems associated with it.
Lunch today with two guys I've known for a long time online but had never met in person, Jeff Sykes and Steve Harrison. A pleasure -- and a good meal at M'Coul's -- but there was business at hand: creating a grassroots group to inform and organize North Carolinians as the possibility of fracking grows stronger in our state.
Your help is requested. Ideas are welcome. A website should be on the way soon.
As I wrote yesterday, I would be delighted to learn that fracking is clean and safe, and that it would be so when practiced in the specific geography of North Carolina, and that it would be subject to laws that have undergone the serious review that GOP leadership said just months ago was long overdue.
But let's get the facts, then decide.
Beyond environmental concerns -- a topic that should be non-political, and of as much interest to hunters and fisherman as anyone -- it's important that any drilling leases bring North Carolinians a fair deal for their property rights.
One of the things we think can potentially be done to really jump start a whole new sector in North Carolina’s economy is to do some things in the field of energy. There are a number of options out there. Fracking is one of them; off-shore exploration is another. I think you’ll see us looking at a full menu of options to try to create a new jobs sector in North Carolina.
Asked why the letter about hydrofracking in the New York City watershed had been revised, an agency scientist involved in writing it offered a one-word explanation: “politics.”
Natural gas drilling companies have major exemptions from parts of at least 7 of the 15 sweeping federal environmental laws that regulate most other heavy industries and were written to protect air and drinking water from radioactive and hazardous chemicals.
North Carolina lawmakers need to protect North Carolinians, as federal regulators may not be up to the task.
In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.
A serious look at natural gas production and its risks, well worth the free registration to see it.
North Carolina is fortunate to be late to this game, and so far elected officials have made the right noises about updating environmental protections before fracking comes to the state...but there is substantial pressure to let tests begin, so it's not time to relax on this issue (see previous posts and links here).
The EPA has proposed examining every aspect of hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to waste disposal, according to a draft plan the agency released Tuesday. If the study goes forward as planned, it would be the most comprehensive investigation of whether the drilling technique risks polluting drinking water near oil and gas wells across the nation.
Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act, the investigators said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.
Binker has an important and somewhat encouraging article on fracking in this morning's N&R.
"Our laws on drilling and things like this have not been addressed since the early part of the 20th century," said Rep. Mitch Gillespie, a Marion Republican who will serve as a point man for environmental issues during the next legislative session...
...Lawmakers said they would be surprised if the laws change enough to allow a private company to begin even exploratory work in the next year or two.
This is big statewide news, with national implications, but the bosses have it hidden in the GPV. Same with Ewing's expanded writeup on McNeill Smith. (Binker tunnels under the wall with this blog post on his own story, noting that even the Google-proof version will disappear after a week.)
Whatever you think of the circ-boosting strategy behind the electronic edition, disappearing these two articles makes no sense. People across the state and country are not going to subscribe to the print edition. The N&R should be using this kind of solid journalism to build its reputation and (sorry to be old-fashioned here) serve the public.
Not hidden: Wireback advances the Kowalewski story. The clearest definition of "substantially all" I came away with after a career in corporate litigation 40 seconds online is "essentially everything." Hard to see how the houses and whatever else came out out of SJK's Special Opportunities Fund meet that requirement.
Both locations were chosen because of their close proximity to potential drilling areas. We have heard that it looks likely that current protections will be overturned by our new state legislature, which makes this outreach even more important! The showings are non-partisan outreach efforts meant to educate on the rights, risks and responsibilities -- specifically for NC residents.
Gasland seems to be an informative, if tendentious, introduction to the issue of fracking, which may be coming soon to a place near you. Here's the trailer:
Anyone know how strong North Carolina's environmental protection laws are when it comes to natural gas wells? This article says "most states" do better than PA, but I'd like to know that ours is one of them.
American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in half a century, pushing down prices of the fuel and reversing conventional wisdom that domestic gas fields were in irreversible decline.
The new drilling boom uses advanced technology to release gas trapped in huge shale beds found throughout North America — gas long believed to be out of reach. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, releasing less of the emissions that cause global warming than coal or oil.
The map accompanying the NYT article (color version on p. 12 of this PDF report) shows a large shale basin across westernmost North Carolina. As with offshore drilling, there will be real environmental concerns.