by Lisa Sorg
When Americans for Prosperity praise a Democrat, it's never good news.
The überconservative group applauded Gov. Bev Perdue yesterday for her support of fracking, after she told WRAL-TV that it would be permissible in North Carolina if the controversial drilling method could be regulated.
"Governor Perdue should be applauded for this important change of her policy position on energy exploration," read a statement by Dallas Woodhouse, AFP-NC state director.
That's a big if, and one that other fracking states—Ohio, New York Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Virginia and even, the big drilling kahuna, Texas—have largely failed to accomplish. Those states have experienced major environmental problems—contaminated drinking water wells and earthquakes, for starters—that have been linked to fracking. Nationwide, the evidence continues to pile up that fracking is environmentally harmful, releasing methane—a prime mover in greenhouse gas emissions—and wreaking serious wastewater disposal havoc on communities.
Perdue and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief Dee Freeman visited Pennsylvania recently to tour fracking operation, The News & Observer reported. Shell Oil, which also debriefed Perdue and her entourage, has long purported that fracking is safe when properly regulated.
Did the dog and pony show tour other fracking sites, including a livestock operation that was quarantined in 2010 because wastewater from a nearby gas well leaked into a field and came into contact with the animals? Or the well in northeast Pennsylvania that experienced a blow out, releasing hazardous fracking fluids onto the ground? Did she see the energy companies discharge vast quantities of wastewater into rivers and streams, as they've repeatedly done in the past? Did she talk to residents who reportedly are suffering health problems from fracking?
The timing of Perdue's comments is curious at best and irresponsible at worst. She could have told WRAL that she wants to wait for the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources to release its draft report on fracking (it wouldn't be the first time an official has glossed over/ not answered a question); that key document is expected to be released before the end of the month. And DENR has scheduled two public hearings on the matter, one in Sanford on March 20, the other in Chapel Hill March 27.
In addition to the environmental issues, Perdue is also ignoring the significant economic and social impacts of fracking, which were detailed at a January fracking workshop at Duke University. Nor did she address the predatory leases that energy companies strong arm residents into signing.
And does she really think that the anti-guv'mt, Republican-led Legislature is going to allocate sufficient funds for a rigorous inspection and enforcement program? It's unlikely even a fee-based plan would work.
Last May, Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina, told the Indy she is unconvinced a fee-based program would ultimately protect the environment. "Any program that doesn't have independent or federal match funding would be viewed by the industry as providing a service for them."
"Legislators who support minimal regulation aren't going to propose adequate fees," she added. "There is still a tremendous amount of wishful thinking that we'll have true independent oversight of these operations."
In light of these arguments, you'd be right to wonder, Who has Perdue's ear? She's a lame duck governor: Does she really want this to be her legacy?