CHAPEL HILL – State residents will have to wait to find out whether the state’s first rule surrounding hydraulic fracturing will be approved—and in the meantime, some local residents are afraid oil industries might have too much influence over any rules that are allowed to exist.
“Here again, if, in the end, there’s no broader consideration for the broader concerns for protecting our water and resources, I have a lack of confidence they’ll write a good rule in that case,” says local science expert Jeff Danner.
Last year, hydraulic fracturing—otherwise known as “fracking”— was formally legalized in North Carolina. Since then, the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission has been charged with creating regulations for the procedure. On Friday, the commission was set to formally vote on its first rule, which stated that miners would have to publically disclose certain chemicals that were being used. But at the last minute, commission members learned they couldn’t consider the rule yet because officials from Haliburton—one of the country’s biggest oil companies—believe it’s overly harsh in its current form.
During fracking, miners drill high-pressure fluid and chemicals into the ground to obtain natural gas. Many local politicians and residents, such as Danner, have questions about how the practice should be monitored to make sure it stays environmentally safe.
Danner says this could be just the beginning of a larger pattern where high-powered oil industries have too much influence over the rule-making process.
“There are many states where the drilling industry has been successful in implementing the rule the way Haliburton wants it, with no disclosure required,” he says. “So, my concern would be that this would be the case.”
And Danner adds that he believes the commission came up with the axed regulation after productive and careful consideration.
“During the months that the commission has been trying to write the rules, they’ve gotten lots of input from all different sources,” he says. “I’m sure it’s been a challenging project, and during that time, I’m sure they considered all of those inputs and came up with this rule. But then, in the end, this big oil field company giant comes in and just is able to influence our state government to turn away from the commission’s work.”
The commission’s rule is now set to be revised by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.