Editorial: As Fracking Begins, Safeguards are Lacking

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The Fayetteville Observer is out with an editorial criticizing the General Assembly for rushing forward with fracking, before many of the promised safeguards are in place. The permit process for fracking in North Carolina officially started on Monday, but it remains to be seen how much interest there will be for drilling in North Carolina, given our relatively small reserves of natural gas. 

From the editorial,


The gold rush may begin today. Then again, maybe not. The price of gold isn't what it used to be.

In this case, the gold is in vapor form, the natural gas that may lie in shale formations beneath Lee, Moore and Chatham counties.

Over the last two years, our elected leaders and the bureaucrats who work for them have been in a headlong rush to clear the way for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. They've seen the revenue fracking has brought to places as disparate as Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and North Dakota, and they want a piece of the action.

But the fracking boom has created a near-glut of oil and natural gas supplies. Prices have plunged - as drivers have happily noticed. We no longer import much natural gas. Instead, we're on our way to becoming an exporter.

That raises a question whether anyone will show up to create North Carolina's fracking boom. Will there be a boom, or even a boomlet? Some fracking operations in other states have shut down and others can barely afford to continue. Is this the time to set up shop in North Carolina, which some experts say holds a negligible natural-gas resource?

We'll know soon: Today is the first day to apply for fracking permits.

But despite the less-than-rosy outlook, lawmakers remain eager to ensure that no obstacles hinder drillers. They hurried last week to pass legislation that forbids state regulators from imposing air-emission rules on fracking that are more stringent than federal standards - which are meant as minimums. So much for legislative vows that we'd have the most stringent fracking regulations in the country. We won't.

As with so many environmental regulatory issues, government leaders see the primary customer as business and industry, whose interests appear to rank ahead of the health and safety of the people of North Carolina.

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