A Natural Feeling about Senate Bill 76

Is it time for the Tar Heel State to support fracking?

by: Alex Thomas
Freshman, Political Science
Weddington, NC
alexht@live.unc.edu

As the North Carolina’s Republican-controlled government begins to settle into their first full term, one of the biggest challenges they have faced is the proposal to allow the extraction of natural gas, or fracking, throughout the state. Senate Bill Seventy-Six plans to lift the state’s fracking moratorium in 2015, while also allowing study a single environmental and operating permit for shale gas exploration. The bill would also allow both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mining and Energy Commission to develop a comprehensive permit for well construction, water management, and waste disposal by October of this year. According to his monthly newsletter, Representative Craig Horn (R-NC68) states that the arguments for fracking “are based on the jobs that would be created, the cost savings that would be available to consumers and the reduction of dependence on imported energy”.

However, an opposing group has risen, claiming that the proposed areas for a majority of the fracking, located near the Great Pee Dee River, has the chance of polluting the river with potentially dangerous chemicals and radiation. This could, according to the opposition, possibly harm farm land in the area, which produces products such as corn and soybeans. In addition, natural gas, like most fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, which is believed to be the main source for climate change. Miles of pipeline may have to be put in place to remove and deliver the fuel. With both sides being presented, it is a smart decision for the Tar Heel State to support Senate Bill Seventy-Six and allow fracking in the state.

Fracking, despite the environmental risks that are presented by the opposing side, has too many benefits to just not implement a program of this sort. North Carolina is believed, by the United States Geological Survey, to have between almost seven hundred eighty billion and three trillion cubic feet of natural gas concentrated around Lee, Moor, and Chatham counties. Financially, the massive amount of revenue that could occur with allowing fracking is substantial, from investment profits to tax revenue. An example of this can be displayed in Pennsylvania, which first began regulating natural gas drilling in 1956. Pennsylvania also allows fracking along the largest shale regions in the United States and second largest natural gas find in the world, the Marcellus Shale gas formation. With the allowance of these methods, full development on the Marcellus Shale could support over two hundred thousand jobs, while fracking jobs pay, on average, around twenty thousand dollars more than the average Pennsylvanian worker. Now, of course the site in North Carolina is not as big, but it is possible to see a smaller example of not only a growth of jobs, but also a growth of highly paid workers. A more recent example would be the fracking event in North Dakota, in which an average of seven hundred seventy thousand barrels of crude oil was produced at the peak of crude oil production. Unemployment in North Dakota currently hovers around three percent, but they also have the third smallest population of all fifty states in the union. The effect of fracking in North Carolina won’t be as dramatic, but it could put us on the right track after a rough six years of recession.

On the subject of environmental impact, natural gas, even though it does produce pollution, is a better method than using other sources of fossil fuels. Natural gas is a clean, efficient, and invisible fuel, and has none of the large negative effects of crude oil or coal. The burning of natural gas does not release the mercury contained in coal. However, there are some risks with fracking, including the possibility of dangerous explosions through the leak of methane gas. On the subject of water pollution, the bill proposed by the senate would allow the injection of “flowback” fluid, which contains a mixture of chemicals and fluids used during fracking, back into fields that have produced natural gas. The reason would be to allow for the permanent disposal of industrial wastewater, helping solve one of the major challenges facing the energy industry throughout the nation.

Fracking needs to be implemented in North Carolina as soon as possible. Senate Bill Seventy-Six allows the state to invest in their own sources of energy, and they may be more environmentally friendly than our other options of fossil fuels, such as coal. The economic benefits, based on those seen in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, can put North Carolina back on track towards a sound economy and put people back to work. Yes, fracking is not a perfect method of energy, but it may be the best option for North Carolina at this moment in time. The amount of gas that is present in the state is too precious to waste, and it must be put to use to not only provide power, but also generate revenue for the state.

This article’s pictures can be found at: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/thousands-protesting-fracking-in-150-cities-five-continents-1.967257 and http://www.ncconstructionnews.com/featured/legislative-update-regarding-bills-affecting-nc-construction-industry/.

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