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Fracking Debate: North Carolina Crowd, Over 500, Opposes Allowing Fracking

March 29, 2012

In “North Carolina Fracking Debate Draws Hundreds to Chapel Hill,” reporter Elizabeth Friend captured the spirit of the audience, packed to capacity in a 530 seat auditorium, with a comment from North Carolinian Kathy Kaufman, an EPA analyst. Kaufman asked, “Do we want to defile our beautiful area and poison our air for this? At the very least, let’s take the time to study this thoroughly before we take an irreversible gamble with this beautiful place we call home.”

Friend reports that 50 speakers opposed allowing high-volume hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” in North Carolina at all; 6 spoke in favor. North Carolina currently does not allow fracking. Excerpts:

CHAPEL HILL- More than 500 people packed the auditorium at East Chapel Hill High School on Monday to discuss a draft report from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the feasibility of hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. The crowd was overwhelmingly against the practice, which is currently not allowed in the state.

Kathy Kaufman, an Orange County resident and EPA analyst, urged officials to keep it that way.“Take a step back. Think about the long term damage we’re risking in return for gas that only lasts for a limited time…” said Kaufman. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the practice of extracting natural gas from underground shale deposits by injecting high-pressure streams of water, sand and chemicals. Proponents say it will bring jobs to the state and decrease the country’s dependence on foreign oil, while critics say the practice contaminates groundwater, pollutes the air and ruins the quality of life in surrounding communities.

The preliminary report from DENR notes that the quantity and availability of shale gas in North Carolina is unknown, as the data come from a pair of exploratory wells in Lee County…  Nonetheless, the report suggests it might be possible to extract shale gas safely, provided proper regulatory mechanisms are put into place.

Numerous speakers took issue with this conclusion, including Colin Zimmer.“This is disrespectful of the people of the state of North Carolina. It’s irresponsible,” said Zimmer, to great applause. “Take responsibility for your report. The conclusion is ‘We don’t know.’ Take responsibility for your ignorance, and then we can start from there.”

A bucketful of North Carolina state legislators attended the event, including “Democrats Joe Hackney, Bob Atwater, Verla Insko, Bill Faison, and Paul Lubke, as well as Republicans Mike Stone, Mitch Gilespie, Kathy Harrington and Bob Rucho,” Friend reports. But the last word goes to Laura Johnson, who owns land in Lee County, at the center of the fracking debate. Johnson told the politicians:
“None of you have talked to me. No one writing this report came to me and said, ‘Someday you may have cancer because of this, because someone made a mistake. Someday your children may have birth defects because someone made a mistake. And this is OK, because we needed some money, and we needed a few jobs that may or may not go to North Carolinians’… And I’m not OK with that.”
You can read the full story, view photos, and listen to the Raging Grannies, who sang at the event, here.
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One Comment
  1. March 29, 2012 3:24 pm

    Go Southern ladies! Interesting connection for me: because of an earlier post from Protecting Our Waters about the “Bennett Blockade” out my western PA way, one young lady who testified against fracking in NC had my phone number and she called me. We spent a half hour talking about her getting ready for this hearing. The connections of a people power movement to stop fracking are being made nationally, even internationally, a little bit more every day because we have taken charge of informing each other and being the media we need.

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