North Carolina closer to joining the "fracking" boom

RALEIGH, North Carolina Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:42pm EDT

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RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - North Carolina moved closer to joining a number of states that have embraced shale gas exploration using hydrofracking, under legislation the state's House of Representatives approved Thursday.

The measure creates a regulatory framework to oversee drilling for shale gas and lifts the current ban on the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap deposits of shale gas trapped deep underground. No permits for actual drilling would be issued for at least two years.

House Republicans passed the legislation by a 66-43 vote in a party line vote and it now returns to the Senate, which previously passed a different version of the bill.

"We're getting ready to put North Carolina on the map in energy production in a few short years to come," said state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, a Republican, who said the measure represented a consensus bill supported by the Senate.

North Carolina's existing laws regarding oil and gas exploration do not allow the techniques of horizontal drilling or fracking.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the shale gas entrapped in the Deep River basin, a 150-mile long area under central North Carolina, would supply the state's natural gas demands for more than five years.

While geologists have long known about the shale gas deposit, its depth and location within layers of rock made exploration and extraction difficult and expensive.

The innovation of horizontal drilling coupled with hydraulic fracturing has made extracting shale gas more economically feasible. Thousands of wells have been drilled in states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia to extract shale gas as a new energy source.

In horizontal drilling, an exploration company bores a well to the depth of the layer of shale rock, then uses tools to curve the bore hole so that it runs horizontally through the rock layer containing gas.

Drill operators force millions of gallons of chemically-treated water mixed with sand under high pressure into the bore hole to create cracks in the underground rock and allow the release of more natural gas. The technique is known as hydrofracking or ‘fracking', but it is not without controversy.

The potential environmental impacts of shale gas exploration include the use of high volumes of water during drilling, possible contamination of groundwater by chemicals or wastewater, chemical spills and disturbance of large areas of land, according to a 2012 state report.

House Democrats urged a go-slow approach involving more study of the compatibility of North Carolina's geology and fracking. "There is no reason to push this," Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat. "We are talking about dramatically altering our landscape."

After initial resistance to the idea, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, has signaled an openness to shale gas exploration, noting the potential to create jobs and reduce energy costs for businesses and families. In May, Perdue created a workgroup to begin developing recommendations for regulatory guidelines for hydraulic fracturing in the state.

In 2011, she vetoed legislation that would have put gas exploration on a fast track in the state, saying it was unconstitutional.

(Editing by David Adams)

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Comments (3)
dth290664 wrote:
I was in Williston North Dakota last week for a job fair.
This area is like a gold rush town of the 1800′s. I never seen people so eager to work.
they have 2.5% unemployment rate. Something that low here would be great.

Jun 15, 2012 2:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jocare wrote:
Well bully for North Carolina…as long as they’ve signed some binding papers that say they promise NOT to ask the US Government for help if their ground water comes up polluted in a few years, or they have some freak earthquakes, or their fishing streams are filled with dead fish. You go North Carolina….just don’t ask the taxpayers to help down the line! ….put those big earnings in a savings account, you might need them.

Jun 15, 2012 4:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Doc00001 wrote:
Let’s screw up the water table and find idiotic places to dispose of the chemical slurry used in this process. Furthermore, as they drill horizontally, what privately and publicly owned property will they encroach on without disclosure? All the dangers faced by the working class Americans for the benefit of a few really wealthy bastards. When the inevitable disaster occurs, these guys will run off far from the site of their depredations and leave the rest of us to choke and gag on the fouled earth they abandoned. All so workers can labor for the least pay possible without healthcare benefits and possibly vacation time to boot. North Carolina is no friend to the working man. Surely a friend to fat cat political contributors.

Jun 16, 2012 12:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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