Last year, the legislature decided that North Carolina is going to allow drilling for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” While the issue is controversial, the legislature put a process in place to establish rules that Republican leaders said would protect landowners and the environment.
Now, a senate bill would scrap most of the rule-making process and fast track fracking. Supporters argue that it is essential to allow drilling to begin and provide jobs in North Carolina. However, drilling is not about happen anytime soon in this state even if there were no regulations.
There is a glut in natural gas. Wells are shutting down around the country because the price is so low. In North Dakota, natural gas is burned as a waste product in the oil fields. Drilling won’t happen in North Carolina until natural gas becomes considerably more profitable, which isn’t likely in the foreseeable future.
So what’s the rush? Why not take the time to get it right?
We only get one shot at this and we need to make sure that we get the most benefits with the least damage. We need to protect landowners from con artists who would fleece families out mineral rights like they have in other states. And we need to ensure that our water is safe and available to future generations and economic development. And the prosperity should be spread as broadly as possible by making sure local communities share in the profits and don’t just pick up the tab for the added stress on infrastructure like roads, water and sewer.
Legislators who are in such a hurry are likely listening to industry either because its profitable for their campaign coffers or because they are gullible enough to believe the industry is wants to start drilling tomorrow. Natural gas companies want as few regulations as possible, whether they drill in two years or ten, and they are putting pressure to rush rules that would benefit them at the expense of the state and landowners.
Legislators should resist. They have the time. If we are going to frack, we should do so in a manner that protects our citizens and our environment. Everybody should be able to agree on that.