Sanford Residents Increasingly Concerned About Fracking Dangers

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Sanford, North Carolina was supposed to be one of the places that enthusiastically embraced fracking, but as polls show and a recent public hearing confirmed, residents are increasingly concerned about the dangers of fracking. The Indy Week has the story,

In Sanford, where the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission held a public hearing on a draft of the state's fracking regulations, opponents of the controversial drilling practice are waving small red flags, their ire given a menacing edge by protesters' thumping drums and whistles outside the Wicker Civic Center.

"Fracking=Loss of property values, property rights," read one sign. Another, posted in the bed of a pick-up truck, proclaimed "Jesus would not frack."

That's quite a change from the mood in March 2012, when Sanford residents packed the same building with nervous energy. An industrial town in Lee County, Sanford had grappled with double-digit unemployment for years. Fracking along the presumably shale-rich Deep River was to be a godsend. "We need jobs," read one banner.

But since then, support has withered along with declining job estimates and mounting evidence of water contamination and earthquakes in states where drilling is already legal. In Lee County, landowners are bristling over compulsory pooling, that could force unwilling landowners to allow drilling on their property. Supporters of compulsory pooling, including many MEC members, say it's necessary to attract drillers.

Statewide polls have consistently indicated public opposition to drilling, although the animosity seems increasingly bitter in fracking hubs like Sanford. A July poll by the left-leaning N.C. Environmental Partnership reported 67 percent of the residents of the state's House District 51, which includes the most likely drilling spots in Sanford, disapprove of fracking.

There may be political ramifications, too. State Rep. Mike Stone is a Sanford Republican from District 51 who helped spearhead the fracking charge in the General Assembly. Although he is an incumbent in a conservative area, Stone is trailing a relatively unknown Democratic challenger, Harnett County farmer and drilling opponent Brad Salmon, according to at least one internal strategy poll cited by Politics N.C.

"[People] don't want the government taking their land," said Thomas Mills, the political analyst who founded Politics N.C. "And they certainly don't want corporate America taking their land."

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