Boles Part of Fracking Group Visiting Pennsylvania
State Rep. Jamie Boles and three other House Republicans are in Pennsylvania this week to learn more about fracking, the controversial natural gas extraction method.
Fracking is illegal in North Carolina — for now. But legislation passed last year by the General Assembly has moved the state closer to shale gas development.
House Bill 242 calls for completion of a study by three state agencies by May 1, in time for the 2012 legislative session. Among other things, the study must include an assessment of the potential environmental, economic and social impacts.
“I don’t know a whole lot about fracking, so I personally want to look at everything,” Boles said Tuesday from Pennsylvania. “We’re going all over the place and meeting with people on both sides of the issue. I’d just like to see how fracking operates and what the concerns are across the board.”
The four-day trip, which ends Friday, was planned by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the lead agency conducting the study. The North Carolina contingent includes DENR staff members, Boles and fellow House Republicans Mitch Gillespie, Mike Stone and Chuck McGrady, a former president of the Sierra Club board of directors.
“We’re just piggybacking off the DENR fact-finding trip,” Boles said.
Each representative will receive $500 to help pay for the trip from an account set aside for lawmaker and staff travel expenses.
“We’re paying the rest out of our pockets,” Boles said.
The timing appears to be crucial as both sides of the fracking debate are either making last-minute pitches or gathering additional facts before the study is submitted to the General Assembly. The stakes are high because the study must pick a side — either for or against fracking.
Last week, the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club launched “The Fracking Truth” campaign to call attention to the method. The campaign includes a website called The Daily Frack, as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account.
Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the club’s director of communications, said the response has been “overwhelming.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the public,” Chicurel-Bayard said. “People are raising a lot of excellent questions about fracking. Given what people are saying, I think they realize that fracking is going to be a big issue in North Carolina this year.”
The American Petroleum Institute is hosting a workshop Thursday at the Raleigh Marriott City Center titled “Hydraulic Fracturing Recommended Practices.”
According to the energyfromshale.org website, the complimentary workshop will feature an in-depth discussion designed to “provide an opportunity for attendees to learn about the standards and guidance documents developed by industry experts, and hear from state regulators and experts about the latest activities in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
DENR will conduct its final two public hearings — the first took place last October — at the Wicker Center in Sanford on March 20 and in the auditorium of East Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill on March 27.
The as-yet unwritten draft report that will conclude the study will be discussed at both hearings, and public comments will be accepted.
The global boom in fracking over the past decade may soon be germain to northern Moore County, which lies atop the Deep River Basin, where state geologists believe a 40-year supply of natural gas exists.
There is a contentious worldwide debate over whether fracking is safe, with little scientific evidence to fill an information gap that has made it difficult for lawmakers and the public to understand the risks.
Contact Ted M. Natt at email@example.com.
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