Environmentalists Critical Of Proposed NC Fracking Rules

Environmentalists Critical Of Proposed NC Fracking Rules

9:39am Dec 08, 2014

North Carolina's fracking regulations are getting a final review this month by a state Rules Review Commission. Some rules, like more distance between natural gas drilling sites and drinking water supplies, are appeasing environmental groups. But they say one suggested regulation needs more work: how to store and monitor waste water from the process.

Mary McClain Asbill, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill, says the Commission's rules don’t go far enough to prevent spills due to landslides, flash floods or hurricanes.

“They got thousands of comments about the open storage pits during the public comment process because right now, North Carolinians are super sensitive to large toxic open pits of toxic materials after the Dan River Coal Ash spill, so where I think the rules and actual law in North Carolina fail are in protection of the public,"  says Asbill.

But Mining and Energy Commission Chairman, Vikram Rao, says the new rules will strengthen monitoring at wastewater storage sites. He says the pits will have to be lined and contain sensors to detect leaks. There will be continuous monitoring and officials with the Department of Environmental Natural Resources will also be able to conduct surprise inspections at fracking sites.

The proposal is among 124 rules the state Mining and Energy Commission recently presented to an energy committee in the General Assembly. Rao says he’s confident that most of the rules will meet legislative approval in January. But he says the commission plans to take a closer look at above ground storage sites.

“We sent a signal by saying we are going to study the matter more thoroughly in the first quarter. Several of our commissioners were leaning on that throughout the year, but we were very careful," says Rao. "If we said no to something than what are you saying yes to? And is it practical and feasible and economic?” 

The Rules Review Commission will meet again later this month to approve North Carolina’s fracking regulations. The General Assembly will review them in the new session.

Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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