| RALEIGH, N.C., June 14
RALEIGH, N.C., June 14 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
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
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
(Editing by David Adams)